Daniel Radcliffe may have put the cares of Harry Potter behind him to star in The Woman in Black, but this chilling screen adaptation of Susan Hill‘s hit ghost story finds him once more contending with supernatural evil.
Again brimming with deep grief and honest pluck, Radcliffe plays a widowed young solicitor sent by his London law firm to a remote country village to settle the affairs of a recently deceased client. He immediately encounters hostility from the locals, who are extremely reluctant to take him to the dead woman’s gloomy mansion, Eel Marsh House, cut off from the mainland by marshes and only accessible by a causeway that floods at high tide.
What happened there? Why are the villagers afraid? And who is the veiled figure in black he glimpses when he finally gains access to the house? You’ll get goosebumps finding out, even if you’ve read the book or seen the long-running play.
Brace yourself for shocks and scares as doors slam shut of their own accord, an empty rocking horse tips furiously back and forth by itself, and a ghostly handprint appears and disappears on a windowpane.
There’s something reassuringly old-fashioned about all this, with screenwriter Jane Goldman and director James Watkins pinning their trust on eeriness rather than gore to spook the viewer. In re-jigging the book for the screen, they’ve taken considerable liberties with Hill’s story but have stayed true to its Victorian-Gothic spirit, shrouding the mystery in a pervasive mood of melancholy and loss.
Radcliffe looks perfectly at home in this setting and manfully shoulders most of the film’s acting burdens, notwithstanding vivid turns from Ciarán Hinds and Janet McTeer as a bereaved local couple. Indeed, Radcliffe’s casting throws up yet another eerie touch – when The Woman in Black was filmed for TV in 1989, his role was taken by Adrian Rawlins, who played his screen father, James Potter, in the Harry Potter movies.
On general release from Friday 10th February 2012.
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