Chills from the old school

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

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

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