Sunday, February 19, 2012

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (2012)

Written by Jane Goldman


Directed by James Watkins


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. February 7, 2012  2:00PM


Puberty can be a challenging time for your average child but it can become a complete life-changing event for a child who just happens to be an actor. A young actor can become a national treasure, bestowed with fame and fortune but once his voice begins to crack or as she begins to develop womanly curves, their careers can quickly become nothing more than a fleeting memory. Some are fortunate enough to be able to make the transition in to adulthood but for every Natalie Wood, Ron Howard or Jodie Foster, there are countless other performers who are simply forgotten or become lost, tragic casualties of Hollywood.

Daniel Radcliffe spent his entire childhood acting, having just completed his run playing the boy wizard, Harry Potter in eight films, and at the age of  twenty-two, is attempting to move into more mature film roles. He has already taken chances by hitting the stage, first going full-frontal in a revival of "Equus",  then singing and dancing in a recent Broadway run of "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" while managing to achieve some success with distancing himself with his famous character. Now, he is playing a widower with a small son in the dark thriller, "The Woman In Black" set in England near the beginning of the last century. The film is a great showcase to display Radcliffe's potential as a future leading man.

Mr. Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who lost his wife four years ago giving birth to their child. He is still so consumed by grief that even his young son notices how unhappy his father has become. It has also effected his job performance which Kipps has been given an assignment that is his last chance; he is to go to the estate of a Alice Drablow, a recently deceased widow to settle her affairs.

When Kipps arrives in the gloomy, little town, he is made to feel most unwelcome as there seems to be a dark cloud of dread and fear hanging over the citizens. No one wants any part of the Drablow house and want to make sure that Kipps doesn't either. He goes to the abandoned home anyway and eventually discovers the reason for every one's discomfort.

Many years ago, Alice's sister, Jennet had a young son who died under mysterious circumstances and unable to bear the loss, committed suicide on the property. It is now believed that her spirit, called "the Woman In Black", returns to avenge his death by having the children of the town kill themselves.

The only person who will speak to Kipps is Sam Daily (Ciaran Hinds), a wealthy businessman, who invites him to his home for dinner with his wife. Their young son died by his own hands but Daily refuses to believe in the curse while Elizabeth, played by Janet McTeer (an Oscar nominee this year for her work in "Albert Nobbs") who makes a brief but effective appearance as his mentally fragile spouse that insists that she's still able to communicate with their dead child.

His piercing, blue eyes reveals his fear but Kipps stays in that creepy house to complete his job. He remains brave and quite stoic, regardless of every increasingly scary bump or supernatural visitor before him that would make any sane person head for the door, screaming hysterically but he is determined to resolve this troubling mystery.

While there are moments that feels old-fashioned and obvious but "The Woman In Black" is still quite stylish with a solid script by Jane Goldman that is grounded in reality and frights that are well earned. The filmmakers perfectly capture an eerie, moody atmosphere required for a Gothic horror story, thanks to cinematographer, Tim Maurice-Jones while director, James Watkins manages to keep the tension on high throughout.

"The Woman In Black" is a tidy, little ghost story that provides enough chills and scares to keep you on the edge of your seat but it's far from anything that will have you lose any sleep over. As for Mr. Radcliffe, I'm sure the next step in his evolution in to cinematic manhood will be to put a gun in his hand and headline a cop thriller and if so, he seems more than capable of handling the weapon.