Daniel Radcliffe most likely had hundreds of film offers to choose from post-"Harry Potter." His popularity and star power could have landed him in anything he wanted, yet he chose “The Woman In Black,” a disappointingly weak and underwhelming haunted house movie.
Scene after endless scene of Radcliffe roaming the hallways of a spooky gothic house seeking the source of creepy noises and phantasmic movements is not compelling enough for a two-hour film. The Hogwarts alum spends the majority of the film opening and closing doors, looking behind curtains and peering into the shadows. He’s a bit slow in picking up that if there wasn’t anything there the first time, it’s probably not there the twentieth.
The semblance of plot is as follows: Radcliffe is young lawyer Arthur Kipps who travels to a remote village seemingly out of an old Hammer Horror film (Hammer produced this film, too) to do something with some papers that really aren’t at all important so that his company can sell a big old scary house that nobody would ever want. (There’s more than mold to worry about) The villagers hate the outsider (of course they do) because as soon as young Arthur arrives, all their children start dying. Ghosts of the children appear, as does the titular character, who makes staying in the house as unpleasant and worrisome as, oh, sitting at a traffic light too long.
“The Woman in Black” has so much potential to be a stellar and original horror film, if only there was a strong story to go with the visuals. Unfortunately, director James Watkins spends more time with stingers and cheap scares than caring about his protagonist or any overarching cinematic point.
The film has an excellent supporting cast with Ciarán Hinds and Janet McTeer, but like Radcliffe, they have little to do but alter facial expressions from grimace to doubt to shock. The set design and music, however, are perfect. The house is appropriately vintage and eerie, filled with startling nicknacks and impressive architecture, while the moorish landscape is gorgeously threatening. Marco Beltrami’s almost black and white sounding score provides all the essential chills missing from the script.
What Radcliffe or any of the other talented actors saw on paper before agreeing to the film is a bigger mystery than the one presented in "The Woman in Black."