Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Woman In Black, dir. James Watkins, scr. Jane Goldman, based on The Woman In Black by Susan Hill, st. Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer, Sophie Stuckey, Liz White

The esteemed British Horror film company Hammer Film Productions moves Susan Hill's simultaneously overwrought yet bowel-eruptive ghost story from the West End to the big screen with predictably vanilla-ing results. This version chooses to forgo the tricksy task of reinventing the genre and instead goes for a resolutely standard - and literal - haunted-house approach. And so, in keeping with convention, we have movement in the frame's peripheral vision, eerily defaced photos, poltergeist sound design 101, candles and cobwebs. All derivative, but perfectly effective if we had anything resembling any kind of sophisticated characterisation in our protagonist. Alas, we are given Daniel Radcliffe as our narrative guide. Radcliffe would probably make a very competent guide, were he guiding us around, I don't know, Universal's The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter: Islands Of Adventure theme park for example, but here, you can't help shift the thought he's acting at acting. The location work and production design of Eel Marsh House itself however, is first rate, beautifully detailed and chock full of authentically distressed and distressing Victorian toys that provide many of the film's Maltesers-in-face moments.