Daniel Radcliffe tries hard to shake the ghost of Harry Potter in The Woman in Black, but the film is a collection of cheap parlour tricks. Radcliffe was inspired casting for the part of The Boy Who Lived (one of many strokes of genius or luck from Christopher Columbus, who rarely gets the credit he deserves for establishing the film incarnation of the Harry Potter juggernaut), I enjoyed him sending himself up in Extras (though alarm bells began to ring about the young lad’s potential range), and appreciated his performance in the West End revival of Equus, which I thought perfectly suited the arsenal of tics Radcliffe tends to summon while ‘acting’. Here, however, he’s lumbered with a series of double-takes and reaction shots as he creeps around an old mansion furnished right out of The Bumper Book of Horror Clichés – self-rocking chairs, scary Victorian toys and one of those Fez-wearing monkeys that crashes symbols together. Honestly, I’ve had scarier phone bills. One good thing about The Woman in Black is its BBFC rating (12A), achieved with the help of a few modest cuts, and which opens up massive box office potential in the UK (it’s already a monster hit). I wouldn’t go as far as to say that The Woman in Black has tarnished the reputation of the famous British horror film studio that produced it, Hammer Films; after all, (a) it spent most of the 1970s tarnishing that reputation, so it doesn’t really have one; and (b) The Resident was so poor it singlehandedly wiped out the goodwill generated by the surprisingly un-terrible Let Me In, the redundant remake of Let The Right One In. But for scary good times for under-15s, The Woman in Black requires a substantial suspension of disbelief, roughly equivalent to that required to be impressed by a typical séance. For haunted house mysteries set in these shores, The Innocents, The Others and The Haunting (original, obviously) are all infinitely superior to The Woman in Black, and for a seriously scary thrill-ride for younger horror fans, The Hole is worth looking into.
The Woman in Black: Not as Scary as The Lady in Red