Published on February 27th, 2012 | by Jordan Petersen0
REVIEW: The Woman In Black
I know that Daniel Radcliffe is trying to break out a bit and explore what it’s like to not be a wizard at Hogwarts. Unfortunately for him, one little girl in particular gets so excited about sharing a scene with Harry Potter himself that she vomits blood. Is there a spell for that? Poor Harry.
Actually, moments like that almost carry this generic ghost picture as other, more traditional elements, like story and concept, fail quite totally to do so. Really effective “jump” moments were, however, just an item on the “Ghost Movie” checklist, from which the whole of the film seemed to be written. And while I admire a plot that so cavalierly kills off almost all of its children, this particular mode of operation had the unintended consequence of preserving the protagonist (a real grown-up, now) from any real danger.
Of course, a complex system of vicarious emotional investments — wherein the audience is brought to feel some kind of tangible fear for the potential demise of the protagonist’s young and almost entirely absent son — could probably have been devised. But, well, it wasn’t.
Well-shot and reasonably well-acted (our hero seems to be more comfortable without a wand, strange to say), and with, as I mentioned already, enough jump-scares to satisfy the highest of expectations on that front, the predominating failure of this film comes down to story. It’s hard to imagine how any writer — working in an environment littered with a haunted house, dead children and vengeful ghosts — could land on what finally emerges here as the protagonist’s primary second-act objective, which is to … go through a big stack of papers. Paperwork. Hmmm.
Mid-section weaknesses can often be redeemed by a strong and entertaining climax and conclusion. But the ending of this film, which is too boring to spoil, matched well the meaninglessness of what came before. Nothing, as it turns out, mattered very much at all. Even as the events themselves provided rich opportunities to inject some healthy genre-appropriate nihilism, the filmmakers instead fed their audience milk and cookies. The very last shot, intended as a final spook before the credits, pretty well dismantled whatever vestige of creepiness might have survived the sappiness of those that directly preceded it.
If you decide to see this movie, just go ahead and leave after fangirl spews blood all over her capeless hero. By that point, you’ll have seen all the best parts, so spare yourself another hour or so of horror-by-numbers. ♦ ♦ ♦
Jordan Petersen is SOUND’s resident sensei of all things movie-related. Recently graduated from Brigham Young University, he is now working towards a Master’s degree in film at Boston University. Check out Jordan’s filmmaking blog at twentyoneninety.blogspot.com.