Daniel Radcliffe breaks out of his childhood star role and into a less ‘spellbinding’ one in Eden Lake director Watkin’s recent film adaptation of Susan Hill’s 1980’s spine-chilling novel, The Woman in Black. Radcliffe puts on his best ‘adult’ face as Arthur, a lawyer struggling financially and emotionally too following the death of his wife in childbirth years prior. In the attempt to avoid financial ruin and to provide for his young son Joseph (Misha Handley), he goes to a remote village to sell a derelict property. But little does he know the history of the house and its former residents, not to mention the curse hidden in its walls. Radcliffe soon finds himself in much darker territory… and there is no Rupert Grint to help him this time!
The narrative begins promisingly with Arthur being greeted by a number of estranged locals when he arrives into their town. Distraught by loss and fear, as victims of the curse, they unsuccessfully try to deter Arthur away from the house. When inside the house the narrative gets lost somewhere in the middle in the directors over attention to cheap scares. Using what seems like all of the genres classic cliché’s from child’s footprints to looking through keyholes to shaking doorknobs, Watkins uses all the tricks in the book to create suspense and instil fear into the audience. Hand-in-hand with the perfect embodiment of a spooky haunted house and we wonder how anyone could have gone further than the tall iron gates. But Radcliffe does his best to rummage through every room in the house, comprising numerous scenes of peering round corners with creaky floorboards and the bare light from a candlestick (Daniel no longer has access to wands and ‘lumos’ light charms.) The middle hour is certainly exhausting to sit through. But we cannot help but sense the films ‘over-the-top-ness’ as a mud-boy rises up through the bed and Arthur pulls a perfectly formed, seemingly clothed corpse out from a swamp who had supposedly been lost in there for years. By this point the narrative loses its credibility. The overall charm of the film’s tension and Radcliffe’s ability to remain a face-numbingly terrified expression for most of the 90 minutes however somewhat overlooks this and allows you to enjoy, and simply ‘be scared’ as, the screaming banshee wails towards the camera.
Watkins’ adaptation is never going to be one of the most acclaimed ghost flick but, with the certification given age 12 (which I thought largely sat on the borderline of a 15,) it will surely please young teens who will undoubtedly get the screams that they paid for- any many more.