The Woman In Black
Directed by James Watkins
Despite its cliches and heavy reliance on simple jump-scare tactics, The Woman In Black still stands as one of the better entries to the horror genre in recent memory thanks to strong visuals, performances, and - for lack of a better term - meager amounts of silliness.
Falsely advertised as a throwback to the horror stylings of the past, The Woman In Black very much plays like an average modern day horror movie. Brooding atmospheric tension is sacrificed for cheap thrills, making this movie less of a throwback and more of a re-mastering of any generic haunted house tale made within the past 10-15 years. Though there were many hair-raising scenes that had my heart racing, this same effect will likely not be had on others, much as is the case with any horror movie -- what one person finds truly terrifying could send others into fits of unadulterated, psychotic laughter.
Daniel Radcliffe, the actor 99% of the world recognizes as Harry Potter, manages to stray from his youthfulness, giving a dark performance as widower and father to a small boy. Though he was certainly not the right age for the role, very little can be found to complain about when it comes to his performance. With dark rings around his eyes (perhaps out of exhaustion from the 10-year marathon that was the Harry Potter franchise?) and depressed mannerisms, he may not immediately strike you as the best casting choice, but quickly proves himself to be perfectly adequate for the part, giving a wonderfully against-type performance that will surely help him shed his previous image. Perhaps he took on too mature of a role immediately following the conclusion of the Harry Potter series, but it was a decision I felt payed off handsomely.
Set in the early 20th century, evidence of the advantages and disadvantages to horror movies in this kind of setting are made quite clear. On one side, the old-fashioned visual appeal gives them a certain atmosphere and character that films set in modern times can't attain. But with this comes the loss of the "it could happen to you" factor, which makes many horror movies, to me, much more effective in sufficiently disturbing you. In order for horror movies to really get under your skin, it must have some basis in reality; something you can identify with, be it the setting, main plot, or just objects encountered in everyday life. The Woman In Black sadly doesn't have that crucial element that would help to elevate it above being the simple ghost story that it is, making it a horror movie that can shock you, but won't leave a lasting impression on you.
But how many horror movies (or, for that matter, movies in general) have the ability to leave you deeply unsettled long after they're finished? And who's to say going into a horror movie you wish to find yourself traumatized by the experience? The answer is different for each viewer. If you - for whatever reason - wish to be disturbed, afraid to leave your room for the next two weeks, this is not the movie I would recommend to you. But if you're in the mood for cheap thrills that you can leave at the door on the way out, The Woman In Black may be the one for you.