If the Woman In Black is any indication, Daniel Radcliffe should have a good long career — in spite of being the face of one of the biggest franchises of all time.
The movie uses its early 20th-century setting to its full advantage. Mostly, the film serves as a stage for Radcliffe's one-man show. He, alone, is onscreen during the pivotal moments, and he reels you in throughout, proving he needs no dialogue or other actors to do so.
Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a world-weary man who is holding a blade to his own throat as we first see him onscreen. It's a depressing introduction, one that sets the tone for the story to follow. He's still mourning his wife, who died giving birth to their son, now four years old and bearing such a resemblance to his mother that Kipps turns away from him in pain.
One depressing fact follows another, as we are introduced to his financial difficulties and troubles at the law firm he works for. His employer tells him he has one last chance: go and handle the estate of a recently deceased woman at a mansion named Eel Marsh House, a place that becomes impossible to leaves once the tides comes in around it.
Once he gets to the remote village, the locals seem unwilling to assist him, so he decides to go to the mansion himself. It's a credit to the movie's use of setting that even before he enters, a mood of creepiness ensues, which worsens when he enters the house and odd events occur, where he sees a woman dressed in black.
When he returns to the village, horrific things begin to happen which the locals feel he is to blame for, but no one seems willing to share what they know.
The night where Kipps returns to the house results in an extremely well put together, if somewhat formulaic, atmospheric horror film. That you feel a lot of fear in an extended sequence with none of the graphic slasher scenes of modern horror, no blood, and no dialogue, has a lot to do with Radcliffe — who keeps you mesmerized to the screen as he copes with such a terrifying place that what's in the front yard drives him back to the horror within.
However, the story behind the mansion's ghostly presence is explained a little too well, and the climax doesn't feel that climactic. But the movie gives you some great scares (I was clinging to my date in a way I've never clung before) that can be depressing in retrospect. But then, seeing a potentially great horror film stick to the formula always does.
Reviewer Rating: C+