Chills from the old school
IN THEORY, awards season is all about honouring craft. It’s not. But by way of compensation we here salute the Woman in Black’s setdresser, who thought to sharpen the teeth of the already terrifying ceramic Victorian doll in one of the film’s many spooky toy sequences. Bravo, sir or madam.
James Watkins, steward of the highly regarded Eden Lake, goes old school on Susan Hill’s hit gothic novel about a lady ghoul, a haunted house and a mysterious sequence of child deaths.
There’s something of Stoker in the set-up: solicitor Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is summoned to an isolated coastal village populated by hostile hicks. But Kipps, unlike Dracula’s legal rep, is already a troubled soul. Having lost his wife some years earlier, he has one foot in spooky town long before the titular spectre shows up.
Daily (Ciarán Hinds), the town’s only welcoming soul, is sceptical about his new friend’s suspicions. Like the rest of the village, he too has lost a child, but he dismisses local chatter about a scary lady as nonsense. So what’s the worst that could happen when Arthur stays overnight at local paranormal hotspot Eel Marsh Island?
Drawing from the same bag of tricks as the Paranormal Activity franchise, Thewoman in Black serves up creaky doors, fast-cut shadows, eerie attics and pop-up scares with aplomb. The build up is splendid, yet, alas, the real deal is a let down. Watkins does everything he can to invest the monster with menace, but a chick in goth slap is, ultimately, just a chick in goth slap.
Happily, everything else works. Radcliffe, a veteran of the green screen, knows how to work a reaction shot. Hinds is excellent as ever. And the ghost train thrills and crowd pokes go a long, long way.
Where the bodies are buried: Ciarán Hinds and Daniel Radcliffe Directed by James Watkins. Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet Mcteer, Sophie Stuckey