As a Harry Potter Fan, I have seen my fair share of Daniel Radcliffe. I, like a lot of other fans, watched him grow up in the Potter films. With each installment, he brought young Harry to life. A tortured young man who lost his parents too soon, and spent the better part of his formative years trying to keep himself alive. Radcliffe had his moments of emotional explosion, but over all his portrayal of Harry wasn't all that expressive. The Harry I got to know in the books was a much more expressive fellow. To me anyway. However, the fact that Radcliffe didn't bring much emotion to his face worked on the screen. He didn't know his parents, his aunt and uncle were less than pleasant people, and when most young people are starting to get their first zit, Harry was dealing with the fact that he was linked to an evil wizard who wanted him dead. The guy had a lot on his mind. It's a wonder he didn't just internally combust.
|(Radcliffe as "Arthur Kipps")|
With the last film behind him, Radcliffe is moving on to other projects. It is his latest film that is causing him to show some chinks in his acting armor. Another movie based on a novel, "The Woman in Black". Whenever I see a film based on a book that I have read prior, I am inevitably disappointed. Rarely are film versions as good as the book. A chief reason is film adaptations that keep within the relatively standard two-hour time frame, have to do some unfortunate (yet necessary) editing. Since I had not read "The Woman in Black", by Susan Hill, prior to sticking the disc in the DVD player, I was a clean slate. No knowledge of story gleaned from reviews...nothing. I was looking forward to watching a Gothic haunted house movie, newly produced out of the hallowed Hammer Studios. (I have long been a fan of Hammer films, especially their large collection of vampire fare.) A cold beverage and snack on the coffee table in front of me, I settled in for some spooky fun. Too bad that's not what I got.
I'm going to jump in here to warn of spoilers. If you plan to see the film, I may give away more than you would want to know. Also, I wasn't very thrilled with the movie, and that might color things for you before you even see it. The 'power of suggestion', and all. Moving right along...
|(3 young girls we see jump out of a window to their death at|
the start of the film...they ducked out early...wish I had.)
The character of Arthur Kipps is the thread that should hold the film together. He is the one constant at the heart of the story. The bulk of the film is a solo Radcliffe hearing noises that he goes to investigate, never really finding much. (With the elements of 'things going bump', and a 'presence you know is there, but you can't see'...well, this film should be tailor made for me. I have always preferred supernatural films to the blood and guts variety.)
Kipps never really seems to do any work...just sits and walks around looking like an emotionally defeated young man. Creepy noises, images of faces in window glass, an empty rocking chair feverishly rocking away...nothing gets a reaction. Radcliffe meanders the eerie set, sporting the same tired and expressionless mug through the entire film (see photo towards top of post for said expression). I will say that the house set is fantastic. Old, dusty, Gothic, and dark. All the things a haunted house should be. It still couldn't save the film. I dunno, maybe it is the director who instructed Radcliffe to exude blank melancholia? Maybe the vision was to try and adopt a Dickensian vibe? Whatever the case, it sapped the majority of the 'fear' out of the 'haunt'.
|(The "Woman"...looks more like a demented Gene Wilder...)|
Kipps' presence at Eel House gets the resident "Woman's" dander up, and she starts in on the children of the area. It had happened before, and it's happening again. She picks a victim, making the targeted child enter a sort of trance-like state. Then the child commits a forced suicide. This is where Daily and his wife fit into the story. They had a young son who died. The wife is a complete believer in the 'Woman' and her presence. Daily is not, scoffing at the supernatural. The wife has "the sight" and keeps getting contacted by their deceased son. There is a scene at the dinner table where she supposedly channels the boy, that I can only assume is meant to be disturbing. It's actually pretty silly.
Years before, The 'Woman's' son died in a carriage accident. Her sibling just left the boy's body buried in the moors, not giving it a proper burial. This is supposedly the reason for her haunt. She is lamenting her son. In her grief, she kills other children, and so on and so forth. Kipps' decides to find the boys body submerged in the swamp, which he does with the help of Daily. They reunite mother and son. All should be well, right? Of course it isn't...
|(Hmm...I bet they're upset because they're in this movie...)|
Well, I had wanted to see it, and I have. I didn't touch on all of the little minor points, but that is the bulk of it. It wasn't such a waste that I wish I could get my time refunded, but it was disappointing from a "haunted house movie fan" perspective. Do I recommend it? If you can see it on cable, and you like Radcliffe, then do that. As someone who is a fan of the world of Potter, I do think Daniel Radcliffe has the ability to be a good actor. I didn't see "Equus", which he got raves for. For a number of years now, we all watched him grow up as Harry Potter. I think I speak for most fans when I say that in many respects he "is" Harry Potter. "The Woman in Black" was to be my first experience of seeing him step into the shoes of a new character. I'll admit my expectations were a bit high. I'm sorry to say that this latest effort was very disappointing.