Film: 'The Woman In Black'; Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer and Ciaran Hinds; Director: James Watkins; Rating: ** 1/2
Horror films, unlike science fiction are not supposed to be confined by logic in their illogicality, and are easier to make. Have a spooky story, get some spooky location, have a ugly looking ghost, many creaky doors, loud eerie noises, wind blowing out candles foreshadowing the malevolent ghost and a character - preferably a dog - who can see the ghost like daylight while the audience can only have glimpses.
Sadly, exactly these cliches that make up the fabric of 'The Woman In Black'.
A young barrister (Radcliffe), who had lost his wife during childbirth, is asked to go to a remote village to finish the paperwork for the sale of a house. He seems to be unwelcome in the village. And before he realizes there's a creepy thing living in the house he is trying to sell, children start dying and he is blamed for this.
If you are the type of person who gets scared by the slightest noises, this is your film. It is so laden with every cliches of horror movie that you are in safe territory. But it is exactly the reason why the discerning viewer will dislike the film.
For the greatest strength of a horror film is its ability to surprise you, even if it is by a new twist to the same old trick. But if the scare-tricks have been used in the same manner over and over again previously, there isn't much left to either surprise you, and since you know where the scare is coming from, to really scare you.
What you thus have is a run-of-the mill film which gets its scene and sound correct, but messes up everything else.
Thus the main problem of the film is that it has problems too many. It's more like an ensemble of scenes that are meant to scare you and which come one after the other, at one point close to 15 minutes pass without a word being uttered on screen. The story is like the ghost in the film, somewhere there but not visible and which irritates more than it excites.
And everyone knows the reason why this film will attract global attention. Yet, Daniel Radcliffe fresh from playing a teenager in Harry Porter, tries unsuccessfully to both look like a 30 something man and one who is scared of the ghost. Obviously, now that he is all grown up and has to make his own choices, he needs to be careful about what he chooses to do.
Based on a book of the same name by Susan Hill, the story has been successfully adapted into almost every other format possible - stage play, radio and television. The film version could definitely have gone where others before have not.
Thus in the annals of scary cinema if you were to ask, 'horror horror in the hall (of fame), who's the scariest of them all,' be assured that even 'The Men In Black' will score over this lone woman.