In the latest horror flick from Hammer productions, we're introduced to Daniel Radcliffe as a whisky drinking London Solicitor. All grown up with a little facial stubble and Victorian-esque sideburns. It's a risky endeavor and a lot for an audience to 'buy'. His character, the aptly Victorian-named 'Arthur Kipps', is a recently widowed father, slightly disheveled and on the brink of losing his job. Arthur must set out to the English countryside for a few days of intense 'paperwork', in a haunted house straight out of a picture book of spooky nursery rhymes.
Already we have the setup for what is a very run-of-the-mill horror flick. I'm not worried about that, it shouldn't be frowned upon to have such a clichéd setup if it has a decent twist. What I do like is the consistent use of the death of children as a thematic strand running through the film, from prologue to end. What I'm disheartened at is the sheer lack of twists or surprises; the film ultimately takes it's audience exactly where they expect to go.
Further, I must write that the structure of the film is completely misjudged. Great horror films which rely on the supernatural have a creeping sense of terror, building from start to end, which ought to give the audience a plausible 'out'. Is it all in the protagonists head, or are there supernatural forces at work? This question is never asked of The Woman in Black's audience. Let me clarify that a little further--I wouldn't even have a problem with that question not being asked, but the introduction of the obviously supernatural so early in the film creates a structural problem more troublesome than one of predictability; we see the full extent of the horror of ghosts and spirits so early on, that at the mid point, the film doesn't have anywhere to go, and can only give us more of the same.
Radcliffe needed a film like this, dark and edgy, to show a more gruff grown up side of his range. Unfortunately, The Woman In Black simply doesn't do it for him. There was almost one redeeming feature in the ending, which would have left a little mystery and ambiguity for the audience to chew on, but unfortunately even that is played out to a rather trite conclusion. A stable and reliable horror flick for a rainy afternoon, otherwise, nothing to get excited about.