It is to be hoped that Radcliffe will take a few more shots at the genre as well. He is a solid actor and he has a certain “gravitas” about him. It is a different sort than when that term is generally used, however. He seems like one of us; he isn’t a giant of a man, he doesn’t come off as a movie star. He seems like a regular person. He is the sort of actor you want tossed into a supernatural maelstrom.
Not even if you were five.
Again, that doesn’t mean it is bad. It does a solid job of creating a mood and a place—rural Britain in the late Victorian era (more or less). The mood is heavy, dreary and palpable. As noted, the only character that really matters, played by Radcliffe in his first post-Harry Potter role, is well developed. We know who is; he is a grieving man with a small child. His career is in tatters and his last chance is to sort through the papers of a deceased woman in an old, scary-ass house. The locals are leery of him and jittery. No one wants him there but he has no choice.
That is all we need to know. The other actors in the film are fine. They just are given very little to do. We know what is coming; we know who they are without too many details.
Some of the scenes in the house where Radcliffe moves from room to room seeing a parade of creepy scary things (man, Victorian-era parents gave their kids some spooky-ass toys) go on a little longer than they should. But really what ELSE is the movie going to do? The more detail given the sillier it would get. This never gets silly. It never seems overlong but it never quite 100 percent satisfies either.
In the past year two other horror films spring to mind when watching The Woman in Black. One of these is Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark. It features Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes (who does a fine job) and has the Guillermo Del Toro cachet as well. It is nominally better than The Woman in Black.The other is Insidious, the silly, fun, also old fashioned (but from a later period) horror film released in February 2010. While I am sure Daniel Radcliffe was paid more than Insidious’ entire budget, again, I have to say Insidious succeeds SLIGHTLY better in what it intended than The Woman in Black.
Part of the problem, and it can be debated whether this is actually a problem, is that this has been done before. Really what hasn’t? The trick is for a filmmaker to FOOL us into thinking we haven’t seen it before. That is why they make the big money. That is why we remember a film. You will be entertained by The Woman in Black but it is unlikely you will recall much about it—excluding Radcliffe.