52) The Woman in Black (2012) Dir: James Watkins Date Released: February 3, 2012 Date Seen: February 5, 2012 Rating: 2.75/5
A couple of notes on the various scattered thoughts and suspicions that this mishandled homage to Hammer's gothic horror films confirms:
- James Watkins (Eden Lake) does not know when to end a scene. The sequence where Daniel Radcliffe is creeping up into the forbidden room with a hatchet in hand is a perfect example. Once our hero gets into the room, the scene could end two or three times before it does. Watkins keeps going however. Similarly, many of the jump scares in the film strike me as being patently unnecessary (ie: they're the worst kind of overkill).
- The one jump scare that really worked however was the one where Radcliffe sees a human eye in what looks like a Victorian zoetrope. That was a cute reversal.
- Beautiful landscape shots and a great haunted house. Digital photography really can look great.
- Radcliffe can act, even though he has a very limited range. The many scenes where his body language speaks loudest for his character confirms both of those assertions. As soon as he starts talking however, we see just how limited of an actor he is. Still, the many shots of him creeping about the haunted house were a welcome reminder that Radcliffe isn't just a kid that caught a lucky break years ago.
- Opening scene is designed to shock viewers but it isn't really shocking. It is however a good indication of what "Hammer" is now associated with. I mean, the boundary-pushing shocks of films like Terence Fisher's Horror of Dracula and The Curse of Frankenstein are rather memorable (that one shot of blood dripping off of Christopher Lee's fangs in Horror in particular; his wildman stare and his clenched teeth accent the dripping blood that much more). And, to be fair, as the Hammer cycle of Drac/Frankenstein films wore on, there was more and more explicit shocks (ie: T&A and bloodshed). So while there isn't gore or nudity in The Woman In Black, it's also not especially surprising to see that Watkins's film conflates the impulse to shock with what he considers to be moody, suspense-filled long takes leading up to jump scares. That's not the kind of filmmaking I associate with Hammer but then again, it's hard to condense Hammer to a single style. Still, it does look like Fisher's gothic movies were the rough starting point for Watkins. So it's strange to note that Woman often feels like a silent film where Harry Potter creeps around an old house and continually gets the crap scared out of him after long periods of silence, followed by jump scares aplenty. This may in fact be a good indicator of what the modern horror filmmaker thinks of when they think "Hammer horror."
- This movie is still leaps-and-bounds better than Insidious.
- I did (theoretically) like the salient distinction that Radcliffe's ridiculous outfit marked between him, the local yokels in the film and Ciaran Hinds's aristocrat. Radcliffe's not one of them, one of them, and they certainly do not accept him. He's more at home with Hinds's high society, especially because both he and Radcliffe are in denial. I think Watkins got that point across well (ie: forcefully), especially in one scene where Radcliffe is chasing after the titular ghoul. In that moment, Radcliffe looks rather silly because he's wearing such expensive clothing and he's running through a bog. In fact, later, he'll get totally covered in what only looks like shit in a scene that really should end well before it does (see first bullet). That having been said: Watkins eventually over-accentuates the idea that Radcliffe's character, a protagonist defined by his wardrobe, is forcing himself out of his comfort zone and out of his complacence. The idea becomes overkill by the time you get to the insanely drawn-out disinterment scene. But in a brief moment like the one where Radcliffe first chases after the woman in black, it's A-ok.