Sunday, February 05, 2012

The Woman in Black Review

I don’t like horror movies. They never scare me. There have only been two horror movies that I have seen that genuinely freaked me out, The Thing and the original Evil Dead. That’s it. I normally like to shy away from creepers, slashers, chillers and freakers because of this. That being said, a friend asked me to accompany her to see this movie (which I admit, I never even heard of it until she asked) so I said, sure! Why not? The worst that could happen is that I get to write a review about the flick. And now, it is so.

The Woman in Black isn’t so much a horror movie as it is a spooky thriller. It’s about some guy who stays in a haunted house for some reason. Honestly, I really don’t know what was going on. Harry Potter played some kind of lawyer, I think. He was trying to sell a haunted house. Maybe he was a realtor. I don’t know. Anyways, he stays in the house and it’s haunted. That’s really all you need to know. The house itself is occupied by the spirit of one of its previous tenants: The Woman in Black, a crazy ass ghost that has a penchant for murdering folk. And not just any folk. I won’t tell you her favorite target. You’ll just have to see it.

Anyways, Harry Potter aka Daniel Radcliffe plays our hero. I don’t remember his character’s name but I do remember that he is a widow raising his son all by his lonesome. Now, I know things were different back in 1800s or whenever the hell this story takes place, but I don’t have children, and I am about a biscuit older than Radcliffe. I found that strange. Then again, one of my friends had a kid at 17, so whatever. Anyways, he take this whole “sell this house job” so he can afford to raise his boy. Soon, he arrives in a spooky and isolated town and meets a whole ton of really creepy people. Aside from a near vacant story, this was my biggest problem with The Woman in Black. The townsfolk were so obviously creepy and portrayed so heavy handed, it was nearly laughable. This scene comes to mind. Subtlety is obviously not a word that exists in this director’s vocabulary.

The story may be absent, but, it’s a haunted house movie. This of course means that the story can be forgiven as long as it’s spooky. And spooky it was. I give credit to the director here. Subtlety may not be in his vocabulary, but sometimes that’s a good thing. Many of the chills and scares come out of nowhere and hit in the face like a brick. And you know something, it frigging works. This movie was spine tingly spooky. The sight gags were genuinely creepy. Often times, they were so creative that I couldn’t help but smile. The middle act is where almost all of the creepiest shit happens. I wish the whole movie was a solid as the middle, but sadly, it was not. Even so, the creeps, chills, freaks, and scares are effective and abundant. Even those jump moments are effective here, which is hard to pull off. However, the director gets a little crazy having roughly 4 jump moments per act. Eventually, they wear thin and become predictable, removing the “jump” from the equation. Despite the director overcompensating with his shocks, the movie is grim, moody and filmed quite well.

Even with its successes, there are other issues I had with this movie. One problem I had was that I really didn’t care about what happened to Harry Potter. I never felt a connection to him. He was one dimensional and had shockingly little dialogue in the movie. That and Radcliffe’s performance essentially boiled down to him looking either freaked out or confused all the time. And to be very honest, Radcliffe’s freaked out face looks a little too similar to his confused face. So even though the chills and scares were highly effective, they would have been even better if I feared for the protagonist’s fate. I really didn’t.

One thing that made me chuckle was the visual design of the film. Old school England with a grey and blue color scheme? A little too close to the last few Potter films if you ask me. In fact, a scene early in the movie takes Radcliffe aboard a train, reminding us all too effectively of his previous role. It’s strange because this movie reeks of Radcliffe trying to distance himself from Potter by going darker, edgier and moodier, and yet, I found myself cracking jokes about how he had boarded the train to Hogwarts. Perhaps he should have tried playing a drug addict like all those other former child stars.

The Woman in Black is hardly innovative or original. It’s formulaic in structure, and hollow in story. The lead character is bland and uninteresting and the town’s creepiness level is way too obvious to be considered anything but hilarious. The beginning will bore you, the ending will disappoint you, and yet, I walk away with a positive notion of the film. Its greatest success is its creepy middle act when Radcliffe spends the night in the haunted house with nothing but a dog and a spirit. And creepy it is. The spirit doesn’t hold back when terrorizing Radcliffe’s character, and frequently sneaks up on him when he least expects it. I wish the director was sitting next to me so I could pat him on the back for some of his creepy sight gags. It is actually quite obvious that the director had a lot of great ideas on how to scare the socks off of people. Everything else, not so much.

The Woman in Black is greater than the sum its parts and offers a surprisingly fun and chilling night in a spooky ass haunted house. I can’t recommend it to everyone, but if you like these kinds of movies or Daniel Radcliffe’s acting, then check it out. Me, I was surprised with it. Is it great? Hell no. Is it good? Not so much. Is it bad? No way. In a word, The Woman in Black is decent. And that is not always a bad thing. I give The Woman in Black and 6.5 out of 10.

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