The Woman in Black ★★★★

The Woman in Black is James Watkin’s follow up to his brutal 2008 debut, Eden Lake. While I didn’t really like that film, and have no problems with Daniel Radcliffe as an actor, the reason I was excited to see this was due to it being a Hammer Production.

The first two acts were pitch perfect; the slow pace, the long shots of the dank and misty English countryside of the 1910s. As Kipps arrives at the village it is clear that something is wrong. The villagers are as uninviting as the landscape. The slow reveals of information build and build the mystery and tension, culminating in a fantastic sequence when Kipps stays over night at the Elm Marsh estate. Sure, some of the scares have been done before, but that didn’t stop me from being pretty freaked out. There was a particular scene where the diegetic sound blended with the score so well and delivered one of the best scares in recent memory.

Unfortunately, the film does undo much of the good work that came before when the woman in black’s motives are revealed. Not only does explaining the threat severely lessen it, but it doesn’t exactly make much sense. Also, the way that the threat is dealt with after the revelation is very far fetched. Kipps basically acts on his first idea (which is pulled form thin air – I have no idea why he assumed it would work) and prevails. More or less.

It’s nice to see a recent horror film to rely on atmosphere rather than gore (Let the Right One In was another example – of which coincidentally Hammer produced the American remake). Even with the third act problems, there’s no denying the effectiveness and refreshing nature of the first two. A reverent yet modern ghost story that adheres to fairly aged conventions, but proves why conventions exist int he first place: because they work.