Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer.
Directed by James Watkins.
I love ghost stories, and period ghost stories, and period ghost stories in giant creeky houses. I was prepared for this to be right up my alley, and for about an hour, it was. But after a while it occured to me The Woman in Black could also be called The Man Who Walked on Creaky Floorboards.
Daniel Radcliffe (you may know him from The Tailor of Panama) plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who recently lost his wife, but he goes to a small town to help settle the affairs of an old rich woman who's recently passed away. Her house in an island that people can drive to when the tide is low. Love it. Isolated location, vines growing over everything. This is great!
Arthur is alone in the house, studying old papers by candlelight, looking at photographs that might contain clues...
What was that noise?
Arthur goes to investigate. We hear every heel-toe footstep he takes up the wooden stairs, slowly down the wooden hall, he comes to the door. Locked. He turns around when there's another noise at the other end of the house. Pause. Pause.
The Woman in Black pops out every once in a while, but sometimes not for his benefit. Sometimes it truly is for the audience. And I question a ghost's motives when she shows herself for a second but Arthur can't see her. Does she know she's in a movie?
This movie has all the ingredients to succeed and yet never gets there. I love it when actors like Ciaran Hinds get significant screen time. I love the art direction, the set, the mood, the atmosphere. But the mystery isn't that mysterious and the ending felt anti-climactic. The success of a horror movie tends to come through in the third act, like the final punches of The Sixth Sense, or The Others, or The Ring, or Insidious. This one doesn't quite get there.