The Woman in Black is based on Susan Hill’s ghost story and sees Arthur Kipps, a widowed lawyer with a young son, travel to Eel Marsh House to deal with the deceased owner’s affairs. Coming up against a hostile community, Kipps decides to stay overnight at the property, isolated from the mainland by a tidal causeway. Here he uncovers a dark tragedy and a ghostly apparition that threatens him with a devastating curse.
The Woman in Black has already been successfully adapted for both television and stage, but this latest film version also has a lot to offer. In the words of Susan Hill, the film’s script writer Jane Goldman (of Kick-Ass and The Debt), has created a version ‘which is totally true to the spirit of the novel but is also true to itself as a film’.
Director James Watkins (Eden Lake), has deftly avoided the temptation to over use CGI effects and has instead opted for a more traditional method of creating fear and suspense which works spectacularly well. Cinematographer Tim Maurice-Jones, creatively captures visuals that imply more than they show to make you more scared of what you do see than what you don’t. Combining this with perfectly timed sound, the result is plenty of ‘jump out of your seat’ and impulsive ‘close your eyes’ moments.
I have to admit that I thought Daniel Radcliffe might be a little too young to play Arthur Kipps. I was wrong. Just five minutes in to The Woman in Black, Radcliffe had convinced me. His cold expressions and washed out palour, powerfully deliver Kipps’ grief and fear of loss. In The Woman in Black, Radcliffe distinguishes himself from the Potter franchise, separates himself from his child actor background and secures his future as one of Britain’s national treasures.
Radcliffe is supported by Ciaran Hinds – one of the UK’s lesser known but incredibly talented actors – who plays the sceptical character Daily. The pair have a strong rapport that helps to convey many of the story’s wider themes, such as spirituality, individual and collective fear.
The Woman in Black is truly terrifying, much more so than its 12A certificate suggests. Brimming with atmosphere and talent, it really is a must see classic. Exceptional.
VERDICT: ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪
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