I didn’t read that many good things about James Watkins' The Woman in Black, the 2012 horror movie from the ‘new’ Hammer Films, that made me want to rush to see it when it was first released. Finally watched the blu-ray of it late last night, and while I appreciate the attempt at doing an old-fashioned gothic ghost story, I found the results were rather hit and miss.
The film certainly looks beautiful - it doesn’t share the lurid gaudy colour palate of many of the classic old Hammer Horrors, but instead has a very bleak, muted look, a style which has become overly used today, but certainly suits the story and locations in this instance (the Osea Island causeway in Essex makes for a stunningly stark and haunting locale) . There’s plenty of ambience and spooky atmosphere but very little in Jane Goldman’s screenplay to really draw you into the plot, or even care a whole lot about the mystery that is at the centre of things (Goldman was much more effective as Matthew Vaughn’s co-writer on Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class). Likewise, the film is mostly well-acted but the characters just not very interesting. There are a handful of effective frights, but most of them are of the ‘quick shock’ variety and have very little impact on the characters or story.
One of the film’s biggest problems for me was Daniel Radcliffe - I have nothing against him particularly, I just don’t think he has grown into suitable leading man material. I feel he would be more likely to make an impact as an adult with some more off the wall supporting characters. Still, The Woman in Black did very well for Hammer, grossing over US $127 million worldwide on a budget of just $15 million, so the decision to cast Radcliffe certainly paid-off in a commercial sense.
A sequel, The Woman in Black: Angels of Death is currently in production, with Susan Hill (author of the original 1983 novel of The Woman in Black) helping on the story, which takes place in a military mental hospital during World War II. The Woman in Blackwas earlier adapted as a UK television drama in 1989, with a script by Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale, which I would like to see.