It’s always nice to see the Hammer name on something, and here it is. Plus, it’s on a gothic horror film, so it’s like Hammer was coming full circle and trying their hand once more at the kinds of films that made them famous.
Daniel Radcliffe is a widower and lawyer who is trying to escape the death of his wife during childbirth, the struggles he faces at work, and his legacy as Harry Potter that will dog him until his dying days. He takes a job to travel to a remote English village so he can put a rich estate’s affairs in order, while waiting for a few days before his 4-year-old son can follow him. Unfortunately, the estate happens to be haunted by a vengeful ghost who is pissed about her rich sister having taken her son away from her and then letting him die in a tragic accident in the marsh that surrounds the mansion. The ghost continues on a long-running murder spree, and Radcliffe has to dive deep into mud and his acting toolbox to seem so unhappy, considering the gobs of Potter money he’s got stashed away that you know he likes to swim in like Scrooge McDuck.
While it’s Hammer going back to gothic, it’s unfortunately not without its modern horror film conventions. You know, the ones we complain about endlessly: jump scares. Yep, you get sudden ghost flashes, high-pitched screaming at the drop of a hat, turn-on-the-light-and-I’m-there jump scenes, all of it. These moments sadly happen often enough to make me roll my eyes and groan, because I was actually enjoying the creepy dreariness of the setting. Also, another modern horror convention: bad CGI. There’s a fog in one particular scene that will make the Silent Hill movie look like it was actually filmed on the moor. It’s followed by a look-there’s-a-not-bad-guy-behind-you kind of jump scare.
While I am greatly annoyed by this, there are things I like about the movie, the first being that it’s a creepy world it’s set in. The townspeople hiding their children works well. The mansion trapped on a road that gets washed away with the tide is marvelous. There are nightmare-inducing children’s toys. The actual woman in black looks great when her face isn’t all CGIed with an accompanying sudden shriek. She’s freaky enough to not warrant piercing my ear drums.
And there’s also child murder. I love child murder! In particular, one kid drinks lye. Guess who then vomits her bloody guts out? If you guessed her…yeah, it’s her. She’s like proper dead after that. Other kids drown, jump out windows, immolate themselves like it’s a Sunday barbecue, and then they come back as ghosts and mud monsters. I was practically giddy.
To top it off, this movie has a positive bad end. It’s heartwarming in the worst possible way. Bravo, Woman in Black. You kill off a bunch of jerk townspeople’s kids AND you give me an ending that isn’t quite a full on kick to the groin, but you let us know how much you really want to. It’s not The Mist level, but it so could have been…
The Woman in Black. Come for the dead children. Stay for the dead children. Do other stuff for the dead children. It’s all about dead children. And Radcliffe’s sweet, sweet Potter money.