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The Woman in Black

February 21, 2012

The Woman in Black (2012)
Director: James Watkins
Actors: Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer

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Synopsis: A young lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe) heads to an isolated rural community in the North of England to try and push through the sale of a seemingly haunted old house.

Review: This is an unquestionably effective shocker – one which will no doubt play well to the multiplex audience it so clearly covets – but it has no real lasting value beyond its basic remit to spook. The horror tactics are very much ‘by the book’, and there is a real overdose on repetitious ghostly sightings, amping up the sound design at moments of shock, and a reliance on the staples of demonic children, sinister toys and pathetic fallacy (especially the use of fog). It’s a shame because some of the original subject matter has potential – from the clever location of the story in the late Victorian/early Edwardian period (plenty of opportunity for dark drab interiors and costumes), to the sense that the story is very much a commentary on a peculiarly British form of repression, austerity and hysteria. The best horror movies always probe away at the psychological and moral fringes of their stories, but The Woman in Black filmmakers seem content to exploit their narrative for its superficial, supernatural fireworks, rather than restraining the release of its terror and fear. (February 2012)

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