Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Horror,Mystery,Thrillers The Wizard in Black? Radcliffe’s Chilling Attempt to Put Potter in the Past.

The Wizard in Black? Radcliffe’s Chilling Attempt to Put Potter in the Past.

After studying the novel by Susan Hill at University and watching the stage adaptation on three separate occasions, it is safe to say that I had a nervous anticipation about the release of this film.
Additionally, my excitement to see Hammer making a comeback with their second production accumulated to some high expectations with fears of disappointment that is so often the way in contemporary cinema.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. Surpassing Watkins’ debut, The Woman in Black delivers horrifying chills, nail biting suspense and beautifully twisted macabre.

We follow the progress of one Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe), a young widower and trainee lawyer with a good degree of ambition, albeit melancholic. Kipps is instructed to travel north to settle the account of the late Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House and attend her funeral; he excepts the task after his employer’s hint that his position in the firm is not a secure one.

Upon arrival, Kipps discovers that none of the villagers will enter into discussion regarding Mrs. Drablow, and that any mention of her name is greeted by silence and fearful looks. It becomes clear as the film progresses that the village is hiding a grisly secret, one that if told brings unmitigated grief to the village and one that Kipps is to discover and be confronted with over and over again.

The film’s finest feature by far is its cinematography; the camerawork is simply superb with, assumably, a combination of over the shoulder shots, P.O.V from all characters putting the handicam to great effect. It is this that is responsible for so much of the terrors within. As the audience we are consistently attempting to look around corners and strain our eyes to focus into the deliberately out of focus background. In short: we think we’re there. And that is, surely, the great aim for cinema and, in particular, horror as a genre? The willing suspension of disbelief? Well, if this is seen in the cinema, on the big screen, then it nails it. This does leave me worried for its quality on the smaller screen, but I believe that to be the same with all films that rely on style as opposed to narrative.

As an adaptation, it does well to emulate but not mirror the novel or the stage show, of which an attempt to do so would have been insulting. It maximises the benefit of its medium by delivering horrific special effects and eardrum perforating sound; all in crisp and all too lifelike high definition. It is so easy as a lover of literature and/or the theatre, to be quick to damn an adaptation on screen, and I have certainly been guilty for doing so in the past. I can only say, therefore, that this adaptation requires applause. I did not need to persuade myself to enjoy it for what it was, or not to constantly compare, I thoroughly enjoyed it as an adaptation breathing new life into a classic that I favoured and on its own merit.

Radcliffe is, sadly, unmemorable. It is a credit to the actor that he is attempting to break away from the painful Potter days but this will not be remembered as his best work. Whilst the audience screams and shrieks at the events occurring on screen, Radcliffe encounters each hurdle and ordeal with unconvincing stoicism. Ciaran Hinds puts up a sterling performance as always and consistently overshadows Radcliffe in their scenes together. Radcliffe certainly improves as the film progresses although his lack of passion and fear allows the audience to relax and be reminded that that’s all this is: a film.

To sum up, as a horror film it is superb. I have not heard an audience scream and shriek in a showing in the UK for sometime and that is the quintessential factor of a horror film: to scare. As a film on its own, it still holds it own, which is something not an excessive amount of horror films can claim to do, especially contemporary ones. It will please even the purists of lovers of its predecessors whilst not alienating those who are not acquainted with them.  The storyline is gripping, the camerawork is stunning, the acting is acceptable and the end result is one that, above all else, requires a strong drink.

James Watkins’ The Woman in Black stars Daniel Radcliffe and is currently drawing to an end of its showing in cinemas.

1 thought on “The Wizard in Black? Radcliffe’s Chilling Attempt to Put Potter in the Past.”

  1. I have yet to see this film but I am undoubtedly anxious to watch. I admit I am a lover of the Harry Potter world. However, it is not Daniel Radcliffe that is making me want to see this movie. I am a true horror film buff. I am interested in how he (Radcliffe) will perform though.

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