Monday, October 15, 2012

The Woman in Black

Directed by James Watkins.
2012. Rated PG-13, 94 minutes.

Daniel Radcliffe
Sophie Stuckey
Jessica Raine
Roger Allam
Shaun Dooley
Mary Stockley

After one of his clients dies, it’s up to Harry Potter, um, I mean Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) to make sure her affairs are in order. To do so he has to spend some time in her house. Of course, this is a dark secluded mansion no one town wants to go anywhere near. Rumor has it there’s a ghost, or ghosts, hanging around the place. It doesn’t help that the local children suffer violent, fatal and mysterious accidents at an alarming rate. Kinda kills the area tourism industry, you know? Anyhoo, this is all leading to our hero spending a night alone in the spooky abode. Yup, he sees stuff. You’re probably wondering where that title comes from. It seems whenever one of the local rugrats manages to get dead someone sees a woman in a black dress close by.

Our saga unfolds in the most uninteresting way possible. Things clunk along as Arthur receives ominous warnings and then is blamed for stirring things up as the kids keep dying. His one ally is Daily (Hinds), the one guy native to the town who is skeptical of the existence of ghosts. He provides the movie’s liveliest moments. Everyone else just trudges through the picture trying to look scared and/or scary, often failing on both fronts. Our leading man, Mr. Radcliffe, isn’t compelling enough to sufficiently draw us in, at least not here.

The alleged scares are pretty standard ghost story fare. Arthur sees things, gets spooked, takes off running, sees more things, runs some more until he “unexpectedly” runs into a real person. The apparitions he sees come off as innocuous because we know right from the get-go they’re only going after children. Therefore, our hero never seems to be in any real danger. Besides, any tension these scenes might generation is killed by the film’s leisurely pacing. A tale taking its time can be a good thing. That’s not the case here. This is like being stuck behind grandma doing 45 on the highway and no way for you to get around her. It makes the hour-and-a-half runtime feel more like a day and a half.

Thankfully, two scenes manage to drag the movie out of its self-imposed stagnation. Both are rather late in the proceedings, perking us up a bit if we’re still paying attention. One involves a mud pit our guy has to climb into and the other is the final scene. These keep The Woman in Black from becoming a complete travesty. They don’t save the film, but they’re at least interesting.

When it is all said and done, we’ve sat through a sub-standard ghost story with hardly any twists or turns in its narrative. Its visuals aren’t frightening enough to overcome its flaws. For the most part, we aren’t even afforded the cheap thrill of jump scares. Judging by the generally positive response this movie has gotten, I’m probably jaded. I just don’t get it. For me, TWiB is yet another PG-13 horror-less flick.

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