It’s extremely hard to escape a franchise as successful as Harry Potter. By escape, I don’t necessarily mean that the actors want nothing to do with the movies, but there comes a point where as an actor you’d like to do other things and sometimes well-received franchises limit an actor’s ability to do so. For instance, are people like Taylor Lautner and all the younger supporting actors from all the Twilight and Harry Potter movies ever going to have an actual career? The answer, in most cases, is no, probably not.
Daniel Radcliffe is a surprisingly talented actor, and he’s led the way for 8 films spanning over a 10 year period. The Harry Potter movies have changed lives, and he and his two primary costars, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, were there to go on the journey with him. Now that the series is over, he can’t just give up acting, right? Well, I mean, considering he’s probably made a bajillion dollars from these movies, it’s acceptable that he could stop working if he wanted to, but he doesn’t want to. I mean, he’s only twenty-two years old, he’s got a fantastic career ahead of himself if he picks the right “post-Potter” roles.
In the first of many so-called “post-Potter” roles, he plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer sent to a remote village for a job. There he discovers that a woman known as “The Woman in Black” has been lurking in the village, terrorizing the local residents. In short, she persuades young children to off themselves in some very disturbing and dark ways. No more are the days of kids just jumping off bridges to see if they can fly. These knee knockers are hanging themselves, lighting themselves on fire, eating lye, and jumping in front of trains. Kipps attempts to solve the mystery, due mostly in part to the safety of his own son, the only person Kipps has in his life after the death of his wife in childbirth.
The Woman in Black, based on the novel of the same name by Jane Goldman, is about as simple as horror movies can get. It’s an old-fashioned tale of a haunted village, haunted people, and all things haunted. Distributed by the revived Hammer company, a lot of The Woman in Black feels retro. Not because of its turn of the century setting, but just the sets, the costumes, the abhorrent use of green screen during the driving scenes. It’s all so fabricated, which usually I would love in a film of this kind, but here, it just doesn’t work.
From the near constant unintentional humor, to the overuse of cliché, and the non scary jump scenes, The Woman in Black is frankly just a mess. Nothing really significant happens until the film’s final third, and even then, the audience has been so bogged down by the eternally boring 70 minutes that were just wasted, that I’d be surprised if they actually even cared. Daniel Radcliffe gives it his all, and his does a fairly commendable job, but he’s far too young for the role, and it comes off as rather laughable that he’s playing a character meant for someone in their late 20s or early 30s. They couldn’t make him look older in Deathly Hallows Part 2, and they can’t do it here, so they should just stop trying.
The presence of Ciaran Hinds is a treat for fans of his, but to be honest, he really serves no purpose whatsoever. In fact, no living being in this movie besides Radcliffe himself really serves any person, as the film is so fascinated with the mysterious death of random children, that it forgets to give the living characters life-like personalities. As far as the ghosts that haunt Kipps and his colleagues, they’re really not scary. The Woman in Black is a film meant to be scary, but not scary enough to the point where Harry Potter fans would be pissing their pants. And unfortunately, as much as we’d like to not believe it, The Woman in Black is really just an extremely well staged cash in on the HP franchise.
With some more genuine scares, a more involved plot, and a more believably aged protagonist, The Woman in Black could have been a great film. Still, Radcliffe makes the entire ordeal watchable with his radiating presence and complete confidence in front of the camera. We all know he can act, as we saw in 2007’s December Boys, a not so critically acclaimed film about a group of orphans that go on holiday in Australia. I’m excited to see what films he’s going to choose next, the only announced one being Kill Your Darlings, where he’ll play Allen Ginsberg. American accents, here we come!