REVIEW: 'The Woman in Black' - STOP Hammer Time!

Scene pictured is a composite image made in Photoshop. This scene did not happen in any movie... ever.
Yes, I am indeed writing my introduction to this review long before I actually see the movie. With 12 hours to go before I can actually step into the theater and see another Hammer film on the big screen, I thought to myself, "Why not get a jump on this. Especially since it won't be posted until somewhere around 24 hours AFTER I actually see the movie?"

That's right, this review is gonna jump all over time and space. And honestly I think this is going to be a brilliant idea. So, are you prepared to hear what I think of "Harry Potter and the Woman in Black"? 

...Wait, what?

This isn't a ninth Harry Potter film? 

...god damnit.

So, another year goes by, and there is another ghost movie, no surprise there. Ghost movies, when done well, are great. Ghost movies, when done poorly, are much more common. So, which category did Mr. Radcliffe's first major post-Potter flick fall into?

Well, On the most part, I think it was a success.

The movie is incredibly, and almost painfully dark. No, I'm not actually referring to the subject matter, I am referring to the color. There were several times when all I could see on screen was a part of a face. In part, this is due to the time period that the movie is set in. Since the movie is not taking place in the hustle and bustle of some modern Metropolis, but is instead set in a rather superstitious town in rural England sometime near 1910, lighting was rather bad to begin with. Existing in a world where the primary means to light a room is with a candle, the extreme darkness is easily justified, which is a good thing, since a dark environment makes for a much better ghost story.

The movie is also paced rather well, with a slow build. At the beginning (apart from the opening scene) everything is rather boring, and on the most part almost depressingly normal. Slowly establishing more and more of the story, as the movie moves out of the realm of the mundane, and into the realm of the supernatural. Initial ghostly events run along the normal lines of barely glimpsed figures, and blurry movement. Slowly they increase not only in frequency but also in severity. Soon things are happening with almost alarming frequency, giving the audience barely a moment to recover before the next event hits.

As far as the acting goes, I think Mr. Radcliffe carried the movie rather well. While not quite like John Cusack in 1408, most of the movie still rests on the shoulders of Mr. Radcliffe, and as someone who has been acting, and living in the public eye since a rather young age, he holds things up admirably. Even when there is no dialog, he still manages to keep things interesting, but what else would you expect from a man who has been playing a scared person since 2001? 10 years of playing a scared boy wizard practically groomed him for this role as a scared English lawyer.

Stylistically, this movie is nearly perfect. What the movie ends up lacking on is the story. Everything just feels old, and somewhat predictable. I found myself on multiple occasions wondering if I had already seen this movie before, because everything felt so familiar. I won't delve too far into the similarities I saw, but suffice to say there are very few moments that genuinely surprised me. I honestly found myself figuring out where the story was going to end very early on. In a world dominated by sequels, remakes, rehashes, re-imaginings, adaptations, and the like, raising the bar is necessary to achieve something spectacular.

This movie is a definite case of style over substance, and if you are looking for something that is visually appealing, without a lot of story to get in the way of your visual feast, then you'll love this. Or if you are aching for some paranormal activity before the next Paranormal Activity, look no further. However, if you like some meat to the story, and want to be genuinely surprised by just about anything that happens, you may want to turn elsewhere.

Is this film "theater worthy"?:
Honestly? Not so much. Ghost stories on the most part NEVER play out well in the theater. I hate to say it, but there is a definite feeling of safety in the large group setting of the theater. A proper ghost story plays out much better when you're at home alone, with the lights out and, weather permitting, a good thunder storm. Wait for the Blu-Ray, stay at home, and just lose yourself in the atmosphere.

My final thoughts:
I wanted this to be a fun flick, and it was. There was a lot of decent jumps, and some good scares. However, the overwhelming predictability of the story just left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. Even though the story is very old hat, I'm still picking this one up when the Blu-ray drops, I'm a sucker for an old-fashioned ghost story.

Slamfist Rating: 7 out of 10

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