Susan Granger's review of 'The Woman in Black'
Hammer horror is back! After producing low-budget, gothic classics like "The Curse of Frankenstein," "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Horror of Dracula," featuring actors like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, Britain's Hammer Films disappeared 30 years ago, but it's re-emerged recently under corporate cable TV executive Simon Oakes with the acclaimed remake of "Let Me In" and now "The Woman in Black."
In his first major post-Harry Potter film role, Daniel Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a cash-strapped, guilt-ridden widower who, leaving his son Joseph (Misha Handley) with a nanny in London, is dispatched as an estate solicitor (a.k.a. lawyer) to the remote seaside village of Crythin Gifford to sort out the papers of recently deceased Alice Drabkow. This elderly recluse lived in a decrepit Victorian mansion, called Eel Marsh House, which - as Arthur discovers - is haunted by Jennet Humfrye (Liz White), a solitary, revenge-seeking ghost. Shunned by most of the terrified townsfolk, who are fearful of the wicked spirit's continuing vengeance against their children, Arthur is befriended by skeptical Sam Daily (Ciaran Hinds) and his grief-riddled wife (Janet McTeer).
Adapted from Susan Hill's 1983 novella which became a long-running play on the West End and then a British TV movie (starring Arthur Rawlins who, coincidentally, played James, Harry Potter's doomed father), it's scripted by Jane Goodman ("The Debt") and directed with admirable restraint by James Watkins ("Eden Lake"). Filmed near Osea Island in Northern England, it's a superbly creepy locale, often obscured by sea mists, and the creaking house with its squeaking doors, appropriately outfitted by production designer Kave Quinn, is forebodingly photographed by Tim Maurice-Jones.
Even decked out in a period frock coat and pocket-watch, Daniel Radcliffe hardly looks old enough to be this miserable, bereaved husband whose wife Stella (Sophie Stuckey) died in childbirth years ago. Admittedly, it's difficult to separate the diminutive, blue-eyed actor from his famous Potter image.
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On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10 "The Woman in Black" is a sinister, somewhat spooky 6, bearing the stylish Hammer imprint.