I will be the first to admit that I’m not a horror fan. But I am a fan of gothic stories, which is why I decided to see The Woman in Black (2012).
From a gothic perspective, this story has it all — a beautifully decayed manor house, a period setting, deadly supernatural occurrences, a skeptical outsider, a crazy woman, an isolated village full of people behaving strangely, a train, a harsh landscape (in this case a marsh). It also features some very creepy vintage children’s toys.
The film purports to be about dealing with the loss of children (squeamish viewers take note: there are multiple child deaths), but it’s sadly lacking in an emotional arc for any of the main characters. Our hero, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe, looking much older than in his Harry Potter days and not doing much actual acting), is struggling to cope with the loss of his wife in childbirth. To keep his job and continue providing for his son, Arthur must go through all the papers in the manor house, despite the misgivings of the villagers and the spooky events that start to happen around him.
Sounds like a great setup, but the conflict never really materializes, and instead the film falls back on repeated instances of “jump horror”, or sudden surprises that make you jump. I spent much of the second half with my eyes closed (I did say I wasn’t a horror fan). Fortunately for me, the music telegraphs exactly when the “jumps” will occur.
It’s a good effort, but better luck next time, Daniel. Gothic fans may enjoy the novelty of having a new gothic period piece, but in the end, The Woman in Black disappoints.
Update: I should also mention that this film fails the Bechdel Test (TVTropes warning!).