While watching The Woman in Black with a crowd filled with noisy and rude radio contestant winners was one of the worst experiences in my entire life (leave it to me to complain about seeing a movie for free), it did shine a spotlight on the fact that these people liked what they saw. Maybe it was because the star was none other than Harry Potter‘s Daniel Radcliffe, or maybe it was because the average age of the theater was probably 15-years-old, but what was clear is that Woman in Black was frightening to them (one person exclaimed “The Devil Inside!” during the opening jolt, whatever the hell that meant).
Not to backhand the average moviegoer, but that’s exactly who The Woman in Black works for. Those people will glance over and see hardcore horror nuts with their eyes rolled deep into the back of their head.
The legendary Hammer Films is behind CBS Films’ PG-13 spooktacular that’s shrouded in classic horror trope. It tells the haunting tale of “The Woman in Black” who returns from the grave to murder the locals’ children after her own kin was taken from her, neglected, and as a result dies. On the surface is a deep, dark and creepy tale about revenge, but what’s really there is a jumbled mess of ideas with no exit strategy. All of the characters’ motivations make absolutely zero sense, and without giving anything away, nothing is resolved in the final scene. It’s infuriating.
But what’s most troubling is Eden Lake director James Watkins’ inability to craft a “real” scare. All of his work on sh*tty British horror films taught him how to trick the audience into looking one way, and then editing back to a loud jolt. That’s not being scary, that’s being annoying. There are two should-be terrifying moments that fall completely flat on its face, proving that Watkins’ one horror talent lay in making the audience jump 20 feet in the air with a quick-cut scare. He uses birds, water pipes and other characters standing in the room to get the audience to react; the blind will scream, giggle and then chatter to their friend next to them for 5 minutes, while the horror guru will throw popcorn at the screen and yell, “DO BETTER!” To say The Woman in Black is a failure is a misnomer, because it ultimately does come down to who the victim, errr, I mean theater patron is.
Those of you who dare to see the flick will be treated to some gorgeous cinematography and set design, although some of the blocking is questionable. Your Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe, does the best that he can with a completely flat screenplay (Jane Goldman). Yet, like it or not, the film is given a heavy boost by extraordinary sound design that’ll hit you every single time a ghost decides it wants to scream in your face (because ultimately, it doesn’t make a lick of sense, and it happens a lot). Readers of Bloody Disgusting, not recommended, unless of course you’re taking a niece, nephew or kid of your own. In that case, you’re old (look who’s talking).