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Radcliffe matures in The Woman in Black

A promising spine-chilling film, The Woman in Black sees Daniel Radcliffe come a long way from his Harry Potter days as he evolves into the young widower in The Woman in Black. As the film hits theatres today, here's a look at what the critics have to say...

hollywood Updated: Feb 10, 2012 20:12 IST
Hindustan Times,Daniel Radcliffe,The Woman in Black

Film: The Woman in Black

Direction: James Watkins

Daniel Radcliffe, Ciarán Hinds, Janet McTeer

Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), a widowed lawyer, is sent to a remote village to sort out the affairs of a recently deceased eccentric and soon discovers that the house belonging to his client is haunted by the ghost of a woman who is determined to find someone and something she lost and no one is safe from her vengeance.

While the critics seem to be saying good things about the film, one thing is for sure, Daniel Radcliffe has definitely come a long way since being the Boy Who Lived in Harry Potter to the young widower in The Woman in Black.

Xan Brooks, The Guardian

The jury is still out on whether Daniel Radcliffe possesses the chops, nous and nuance to sustain a rewarding acting career away from Hogwarts. But credit where it's due: the former Potter has taken a shrewd baby-step in the right direction with this busy, bustling ghost story that at times appears less indebted to the Susan Hill bestseller than the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland. The plot is skeletal, a bag of bones, spring-loaded with booby-traps and wired to the mains as it shuttles Radcliffe's widowed young lawyer around Eel Marsh House, the obligatory "old place cut off from the outside world".

Rating: ***

Woman In Black

Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

Radcliffe gives a clear-eyed, plausibly grown-up performance as Arthur Kipps, a lawyer summoned to a remote mansion to settle its recently-deceased owner’s estate. In one of the major departures from Hill’s novel, Kipps is a young widower, which perhaps makes him more susceptible to whispers about the house’s tragic past. A local landowner (Ciarán Hinds) lets slip a few details about a mysterious, cloaked woman who’s occasionally glimpsed at the window, although Kipps learns a great deal more about her first-hand when, in order to finish his paperwork on time, he decides to spend the night at Eel Marsh House himself.

Director James Watkins expertly uses shadows and empty spaces to create a percolating sense of dread, and he waits until the last possible moment before allowing his audience the catharsis of a shock. Don’t be reassured by the 12A certificate: there’s barely a glimpse of anything scary in this film, but that’s precisely what makes it so terrifying.
Rating: ****

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
Working from Jane Goldman's compact, well-judged adaptation, director James Watkins (Eden Lake) shows he well knows what he's doing: The genre has certain requirements and he honors them, with sincerity and style. The hooded spectral title character keeps appearing — in windows, at a distance, present in a room and then not, always elusive — and the director is not ashamed to go all the way in having Kipps poke his nose in rooms and dark places where most rational people, or any who had seen haunted house movies, would not tread.

Happily, Watkins steers clear of indulging in modern horror tropes, especially where gore and vulgarity are concerned. In most respects other than technical expertise, this is a film that essentially could have been made in Hammer's heyday back in the 1950s, as well as one that Radcliffe's Potter fans can enjoy.

The actor, it must be said, is perfectly good, credible as a young father and capable of holding the screen by himself for a long period, as required by his character's isolation. The only issue one might raise is his persistent facial stubble, something quite out of step with the early 20th century period.

Hinds and McTeer add weighty support as the area's most eminent residents. The locations, particularly the marshland area of the house, and production design are memorable, with both evoked attentively by Tim Maurice-Jones' cinematography. Marco Beltrami's score effectively augments the tension and atmosphere.

Derek Malcolm, London Evening Standard

James Watkins's film, which looks good, is a ghost story as much as a horror movie and yields up its secrets at an even pace. Some may feel that the ruses used to set us shivering with anticipated fear, such as the mysteriously swinging rocking chair or the toys and ornaments that suddenly come to life, have been used so often before that they lose force. No single cathartic shock pulls us up but a steady drip of anxious moments attempt the desired effect.

Radcliffe is not given a vast amount to do; his is very much a reactive part as Ciarán Hinds is opposite him for much of the film as the landowner he meets on the train to Crythin Gifford who doesn't believe in all the morbid superstitions of the local yokels.
Rating: ***

First Published: Feb 10, 2012 19:12 IST