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Nordling Says THE WOMAN IN BLACK Delivers On The Hammer Name!

Nordling here.

Now that Hammer Studios is releasing films again, THE WOMAN IN BLACK is definitely a callback to those films that the studio is famous for.  It has brooding atmosphere, delivers tension in the quieter moments, and none of the performances are played for laughs or camp.  Where THE WOMAN IN BLACK stumbles a little bit is when it tries to jolt the audience and each little bump and squeal on the soundtrack deflates the mood.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a young attorney struggling at a law firm in London.  He has his hands full taking care of his little boy Joseph (Misha Handley) alone.  His wife died giving birth to Joseph and Arthur hasn't mended from that loss.  His work has fallen behind, and his boss tells him that if he can't get this latest job in order the firm will have to let him go.  So Arthur leaves Joseph with his nanny and makes his way out of town.  The job entails getting the final paperwork of Mrs. Alice Drablow in order, who recently died and left her estate, Eel Marsh House, in shambles.  The local townsfolk avoid the place like the plague, and the town seems to have very few children living in it.  Local landowner Sam Daily (Ciaran Hinds) offers to help Arthur make his way in the town, but it becomes obvious very quickly that things are not right.

Once Arthur gets to Eel Marsh, things take a definite turn for the supernatural as Arthur hears strange noises, has odd visions, and sees a woman all dressed in black throughout the grounds.  When he sees her, a child dies in the village, causing him to be scorned and reviled.  The town is cursed as more children meet tragic ends.  Arthur soon realizes that he is inside a mystery, and if he wants to keep his son out of danger, he must solve the riddle of the Woman in Black.

Daniel Radcliffe has grown up to be a good actor, and I think he made the right choice making a movie like this as a transition out of his Potter years.  He's young, but believable as a father and as events go south he is the audience surrogate through the funhouse thrills of the movie.  An extended sequence, with Arthur alone in Eel Marsh, was particularly effective; with little dialogue and an escalation of tension, THE WOMAN IN BLACK is quite an effective ghost story.  Ciaran Hinds is always a pleasure to watch and Janet McTeer is good as Daily's wife, who has been devastated by the loss of their own son.

My main issue with the movie is that when the jolts and scares come they feel right out of a modern-day horror film and spoil the mood.  The Woman In Black herself is frightening enough without the excessive score, the noise, and the screams as the movie tries to make you jump out of your seat.  The story is good, and as the plot reveals itself the movie is always interesting; but it feels like the jumps are there strictly for the teen crowd, and the screening I saw THE WOMAN IN BLACK at was full of them, jumping and screaming over every little titter in the soundtrack.  I realize that with an actor like Radcliffe headlining, that audience is the demographic that the movie is aiming for, but THE WOMAN IN BLACK works best in the quieter moments, as Arthur tries to figure out the puzzle of the story.

Director James Watkins is fairly new, having written THE DESCENT PART 2 and directed EDEN LAKE, an actually quite good Michael Fassbender horror film that you should check out.  With THE WOMAN IN BLACK, Watkins has made a movie straight out of the Hammer wheelhouse and deserving of the label.  I just wish it didn't play to the younger crowd so much and if it hadn't, THE WOMAN IN BLACK would be a much creepier movie.  As it is, it's still quite good, and hopefully you'll see it without a bunch of screaming kids as background noise.  But it's worthy of Hammer.

Nordling, out.  Follow me on Twitter!

Readers Talkback
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  • Feb. 3, 2012, 12:20 p.m. CST


    by Baron Von Penguin

  • Cronenbergs A Dangerous Mind is an eerie movie full of his usual slow burning build up to crucial scenes. Fassbender & Knightley are great & Mortensen - now in his 3rd Cronenberg movie i think - is my fav' as Freud. Saw this at a special preview last night and going to see Young Adult with Charlize Theron tonight, another movie that's been strangely overlooked, propbably due to all the movie sites foaming at the mouth for superhero movies at the moment. Shame, both these movies deserve more exposure.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 12:28 p.m. CST

    1st, 2nd, 3rd....who gives a shit......Zen out people.

    by cameron

  • My kind of horror.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 12:41 p.m. CST

    so will Radcliffe eventually play James Bond?

    by Spandau Belly

    Like in 10 - 15 years?

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 12:43 p.m. CST

    Sounds too much like The Guns of Navarone to me.

    by Porrohman

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 12:48 p.m. CST

    Daniel Radcliffe has grown up to be a good actor........

    by mynamesdan

    care to elaborate? show your working in the margins?

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 12:50 p.m. CST


    by Bunnie

    Do you mean A Dangerous Method?

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 1:01 p.m. CST

    grew up on Hammer films at the drive in

    by danny rose

    my mom was a fan and always took us so great to see the name again!!!

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 1:24 p.m. CST

    I'd sooner say Doctor Who in 10-15 years...

    by bubcus

    At any rate, this is a movie I am looking forward to. I am glad it's getting good reviews.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 1:26 p.m. CST

    Hammer Rules!

    by CuervoJones

    Twins of Evil, one of the best vampire movies ever.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 1:42 p.m. CST

    drstrangerlove, a fail while listening to Deadmau5

    by Mattman

    always feels like a win.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 2:29 p.m. CST

    Just saw it

    by KinjoAlcoholicNinja

    Thought it was very good. Although it had some cheap BAM jump scares, it didn't rely on them. Not the best thing I've ever seen, but a satisfying supernatural thriller.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 3:07 p.m. CST

    Seeing this tonite....

    by thot

    Saw the original movie on Youtube a few months ago and thought it was quite good. Nice creepy vibe. If this remake is half as good, it should be a good time. So much of what passes for a "scary movie" these days is so pathetic. I'll take old-school atmospherics and clever creep outs any day over that crap.

  • ...with modern sensibilities and production values and the best haunted mansion since the one in Orlando. I really wanted to hate Radcliffe but he honestly did a neat job here. If you want a fun, old-school scare flick and are not expecting high art you could do a lot worse. Not a modern masterpiece but I felt it only went really sour once - but I will let everyone else decide for themselves. I (mostly) had a whole lot of fun with it.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 4:58 p.m. CST

    Hammer does not exist in this dojo

    by Cobra--Kai

    Worthy of the Hammer name? The woman in black better have a nice big pair of naturals.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 5:41 p.m. CST

    I thought that play where he was naked with a horse was

    by sweeneydave

    his transition out of his Potter years. Oh wait. That was DURING his Potter years. Such a wholesome kid, that Radcliffe.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 5:44 p.m. CST

    No Harry Potter jokes yet?

    by kidicarus

    Come on people.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 6:03 p.m. CST

    I love my woman, dressed in black!

    by Norman Colson

    -Zing! I'll wait for the blu-ray tired of fake ass horror movies.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 6:10 p.m. CST

    This isn't a fake horror movie

    by HornOrSilk

    It's a haunted house movie.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 6:35 p.m. CST

    haunted house movie.... blah blah blah...

    by Norman Colson


  • Feb. 3, 2012, 6:50 p.m. CST

    Eden Lake is an absolute piece of shit

    by billcom6

    nothing interesting or redeeming about it

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 8:15 p.m. CST

    The '89 version is amazing

    by takapa

    The '89 version is the best ghost story ever put to film and cautiously optimistic about the new version (even though it sounds like the plot has massively deviated from the book).

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 8:57 p.m. CST

    Very good movie, but the end pretty much bites [minor SPOILERS]

    by Nasty In The Pasty

    It's like they were trying to fuse a cheap "BAM" shockaroo ending with a more "healing" denouement (along the lines of something like The Orphanage), and failed miserably at both. Shame...the movie is very well-made otherwise, and Radcliffe's performance is fine.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 9:16 p.m. CST

    Harry should've brought his wand.

    by Yelsaeb

    There's your Potter joke.

  • Feb. 3, 2012, 9:37 p.m. CST

    Ending ruins the film (no spoilers)

    by Dursman2000

    My wife and I were both really into the film right up until the last 10 minutes. The ending sucked so bad, it ruined everything that came before it. Never want to see it again.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 4:45 a.m. CST

    @takapa: 1989's TV version was magnificent.

    by Octavian

    The first appearance of the WiB at Eel Marsh House is so simple, but one of the most effective jolts in the genre's history. I can't imagine how Radcliffe's effort could match the scare elicited by an actress hiding behind a gravestone, then standing, then hiding again, for all the millions thrown at it.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 5:41 a.m. CST

    @octavian: right there with you

    by RedeyeJedi

    As much as I did enjoy the new version, and I truly enjoyed it, that shot from the original is absolutely unsettling. Never understood why, just her blank stare that does it. that and the random whispering heard throughout the movie, gives me goosebumps just thinking. Both are solid horror films

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 5:54 a.m. CST


    by RedeyeJedi

    I thought the infamous "wicked witch" gag towards the end of the original was executed a bit better in the new version. Always thought that was the weakest part in the original, rather than being the scariest. still, I'd put the original on par with the Haunting and the Changeling as one of the best ghost films ever.

  • shocked something rotten.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 12:19 p.m. CST

    Very good film *Spoiler in comment*

    by Bryan White

    went in with no expectations and it left me wanting more, it would be possible to do a sequel with another main character possibly the "Spirit contacter" seen in an advert early on in the movie. I felt the ending was very open, not much closure. If you have seen it feel free to springboard ideas or comment on my stupidity of even fathoming a sequel.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 12:31 p.m. CST

    randon coincidence

    by chinofjim

    in the 1989 tv movie (which is very good btw), the guy who plays Kipps is the guy who plays Harry Potters dad in the movies.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 4:21 p.m. CST

    Just saw it (no spoilers)

    by coosawatchie

    The movie had a good creepy atmosphere in some spots, but ultimately it was a big steaming pile of shit. Even the atmosphere suffers from being a bit overwrought. How many creepy dolls do we need to see in one film before they start becoming less creepy? I have no interest in seeing any kind of sequel for this.

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 4:41 p.m. CST

    1989 version

    by pumaman

    Watched it last night and one scene made me jump like a little girl :-(

  • Feb. 4, 2012, 6:45 p.m. CST

    You smell like trouble.

    by JackSlater4

    I'm fucking hammered Burt.

  • Feb. 5, 2012, 10:41 a.m. CST

    The Woman in Black grabbed me annnd wouldn't let go!

    by fathergeek

    Saw "The Woman in Black" yesterday (Saturday) during daylight. She was woeful, weird & pretty damn scary. It reminded me a lot of Guillermo & those young Spanish filmmaker's motion pictures, dark & grey, populated with cute endangered kids with little to no hope for salvation. A taunt, tense film, well acted and shot. Loved all those creepy, eerie, vintage toys. I would die to get my hands on several of them, even in their distressed condition.

  • Feb. 5, 2012, 12:09 p.m. CST

    Enjoyed It a Lot (SPOILER)


    Saw it last night and really enjoyed it; haven't seen a good, 'old fashioned' ghost story in forever. The audience did include a lot of teens but they were into it (not wiseing off!)and that added to the fun atmosphere (some shrieking in a ghost story can be fun). The movie relies more on creepiness and atmosphere than a lot of modern horror and I liked that approach. Quibble (SPOILERS) - the, ending seemed to kind of defy 'ghost logic'; why aim murderous fury at the guy who did a lot to give the ghost what it seemed to have wanted? One in our group suggested the ghost was basically irredeemably 'insane'; guess that is good an explanation as any! A fun, oldtime haunted house movie!

  • Don't know why the Ebert decided to shit on the young man.

  • Feb. 8, 2012, 10:25 a.m. CST

    All it needed

    by Sirius_crack

    They needed was for them to be skipping across a green pasture hand in hand at the end. Then it would have made a solid movie....... not.