There can be no doubt that it will be hard for actor Daniel Radcliffe to break put of the shadow of Harry Potter. It was exciting to see, for that reason, that he picked a very different part as his first big post-Potter stint. A dark, gothic horror film produced by famed Hammer Pictures was certainly not what people expected, and the more images and clips appeared of the film, the more I looked forward to seeing it. The film is finally available on Blu-Ray Disc and there was no holding me back to check it out.
Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young attorney in Victorian England, struggling to cope with his wife's death, as he tries to return to work and care for his young son. He is sent to a remote village in the moors in order to search the house of a deceased client in order to take care of and sort through the paperwork. As soon as the young man arrives in the village, he is greeted by the people's stand-offish attitude and their superstitions. They want him to stay away from the house in question. Undeterred, Kipps begins his work, but soon realizes that there maybe some truth to the legends of a woman haunting the premises, and before long, he finds himself terrified when he realizes that slowly, the children in the village die from horrible "accidents." How is the ghost of the Lady in Black that he keeps seeing related to these deaths?
"The Woman in Black" is a wonderfully atmospheric film that oozes gothic style. In fact, the first thing you may notice is that the film resembles German expressionist movies, recalling the gothic and eerie imagery of F.W. Murnau and Fritz Lang. Only this time, it is bathed in color, adding another layer of visual quality to the film.
The production design, equally evokes memories of classic horror movies, making me fall in love with the movie right from the start. The story itself is nicely balanced. While it is a haunted house story at its hard and though it remains fairly formulaic, it is that familiarity with the territory that makes the movie click right away. Best of all, however, "The Woman in Black" is creepy!
I admit that I was hoping for a film that was, perhaps, even more scary, but ultimately, it worked really well, as the atmosphere is thick as frozen molasses and the creepiness keeps climbing and climbing. Unlike "The Innkeepers," however, another haunted house movie of recent memory, "The Woman in Black" is not simply reverting to cheap jump scares to frighten its audience, but instead, uses slow, deliberate reveals to clue viewers in on the horror, and to build frights. Very nicely done, indeed.
Which brings us to the cast and, with it, to Daniel Radcliffe's performance. Before seeing the film, it was hard to see the actor as anything but the boy wizard, but as soon as the story unfolded, all that was forgotten and Daniel Radfliffe turned into a young solicitor in days long past. There was not a moment - well, one or two, perhaps - where the image of Potter resurfaced, and instead, Radcliffe embodied his character with fervor. It is a greatly nuanced performance with subtlety, that nicely complemented by the rest of the cast, most notably, Ciaran Hinds.
Sony Pictures is presenting "The Woman in Black" in a 1080p high definition transfer on this Blu-Ray Disc, that is bold and beautiful. Rich in detail, the transfer reproduces even the most subtle textures and shades throughout. Incredibly deep blacks help bring the movie's vivid imagery to life, as shadows are a major part of the film's cinematography. In fact, you will oftentimes realize that one half of the actors' faces are shrouded in complete blackness, giving the movie its strong, bold, gothic look. Beautiful, is too small a word to describe what is on the screen. It is gorgeous.
The movie's DTS 5.1 HD !aster Audio track further adds to the experience, as it perfectly underscores the film with an atmospheric soundtrack and great sound effects that heighten the suspense of the action on screen.
A Commentary Track featuring Director James Watkins and Screenwriter Jane Goldman is also included on the disc, giving viewers first-hand insight into the production process and the creative aspects of the film.
To further round out the release, you will find "Inside The Perfect Thriller," on the release, a making-of featurette that gives you glimpse at the film's production.
"No Fear" is a featurette dedicated to Daniel Radcliffe and his approach to playing Arthur Kipps in the movie.
"The Woman in Black" is a movie that does not disappoint and lives up to the hopes and expectations of the best Hammer movies ever made. Make sure to give this disc a try, because it may just remind you how powerful a carefully crafted period horror movie can be. Do not miss this opportunity.