The Woman in Black – or Daniel Radcliffe Looking at Things

The thing I like about going to the cinema is that, for a precious couple of hours, one can forget all about one’s own troubles and absorb oneself completely in the trials and tribulations of someone else. Stress levels seem to have increased steadily since the start of the year and life seems to have reached something of a fever pitch, and in such situations it takes a deeply creepy movie to make one forget, momentarily, about the world outside. The Woman in Black certainly fitted the bill this evening.

I should start by saying that I haven’t read the book – so I’m approaching the film from the point of view of someone who doesn’t know the story. I have, however, read (and studied) another Susan Hill novel, I’m the King of the Castle, and I recognised some of the themes from that equally unsettling novel cropping up in The Woman in Black – things like the ominous crow, the unnerving scenes in the woods, the alarming use of the colour red in a film which has purposefully been shot with a grey filter to heighten the grimness. Susan Hill is masterful at creating a creepy atmosphere, and I thought they’d done a good job of translating that to screen – with the help of some old horror classics: a haunting score, cobwebs, heavy rain, thick fog, and of course a liberal helping of exceptionally creepy dolls and stuffed animals.

The Woman in Black tells the story of a young widower (Daniel Radcliffe) who’s sent to sort through the papers of a recently deceased woman, whose house – or someone lurking in it – is at the centre of a chilling series of incidents in which local children meet violent deaths under mysterious circumstances. In an inspired plot device, the house is located on an island deep in perilous marshes, and is only accessible at low tide – creating a feeling of true, haunting isolation that only an island can truly evoke. In a way it’s just a classic haunted house/ghost story, but it does a good job of creating suspense and I spent a hefty proportion of the film with goosebumps, feeling chilled to the bone! I don’t really go in for scary films as a general rule and I’d say this is the scariest I’ve seen. It was definitely a lot scarier than The Others.

This is Daniel Radcliffe’s first film since the epic culmination of the Potter adaptations, and it’s clear that he’s matured a lot as an actor. I did find it slightly implausible that he’s supposed to be a married father of a four-year-old, but he was actually pretty good. The friend I went with said that someone had described the film to him as “Daniel Radcliffe looking at things”, which is a reasonable assessment, as extended sequences are devoted to Radcliffe creeping nervously about the house, well, looking at things. This flippant summary belies the film’s genuine creepiness, though, and it was difficult to forget about it as I drove home through patches of thick fog and dark woods…

I was pleased to find that the dashing Ciaran Hinds was also in it, in a supporting role. I last saw him as a devastatingly attractive Julius Caesar in the HBO series Rome, and although this was a very different role, he nevertheless conveyed the same gravitas and was a pleasing addition to the cast.

This is a deeply chilling film but I would recommend seeing it, even if you think scary films aren’t really your thing. As a piece of cinema it’s actually pretty good, and the plot is undeniably gripping. Finally, the ending took me by surprise, and I like it when endings do that.


2 thoughts on “The Woman in Black – or Daniel Radcliffe Looking at Things

  1. I’m glad to hear you liked this film, I’ve been meaning to see it myself. One of our exams for English A2 was on Gothic literature, so we came across this, and one of our trips was to see the fantastic stage adaptation, and I can safely say I have never felt terror as I did sitting in the audience. I think it’s now the longest running play in London or similar, and I can see why, definitely worth a trip. The book I have to say was not quite as scary, but probably because I read it after having seen the play. Although having said that, I made a point of reading it only on sunny days in the morning! I’ll lend it to you if you like. :) Another great post, and I’m hoping you’ll do more movie reviews! Please go and see ‘A Dangerous Method’, it’s currently top of my cinema visit list!

    • Yeah Matt’s seen the play too and said it was very scary! I will definitely be doing more film reviews and I’ll look out for A Dangerous Method! :) Would like to read the book, good plan on reading it on sunny mornings though!! Very creepy story.

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