An old-fashioned ghost story has come back to haunt the silver screen in The Woman in Black. With a strong cast, solid direction and traditional screenplay, the latest horror-thriller from Hammer Film may not offer anything new to the genre, but it does succeed in introducing old-school horror to new generations.
Based on the Susan Hill novel of the same name, The Woman in Black tells the story of a cursed English village and a nearby haunted house in the early 1900s. A lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe) visiting the town on business finds himself haunted by a ghostly woman in black and begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding the specter.
The Woman in Black is a promising start to Radcliffe's post-Potter career. The 22-year-old actor, in his first adult role since the conclusion of the popular fantasy series, carries the film in the very grown-up role of Arthur Kipps, a young widower and father. Kipps spends much of the film in isolation so appearances of the only friendly village resident Sam Daily (Ciaran Hinds) and his wife (Janet McTeer) are always welcome.
Director James Watkins stays true to the traditional scare tactics characteristic of the story. Much of the film's fright comes from creepy imagery and startling, abrupt sounds; jump scares are an old gimmick, but they work very well with modern audiences.
During the quiet scenes, audience members will wait nervously for the alarming noises and shocking displays they know are on the way. Barren landscapes, dark sets and the use of shadows, mirrors and creepy dolls keep viewers uneasy between scenes. It is, in fact, the suspense that delivers most of the chills.
Copious gore and violence aren't needed to deliver the jolts of terror. The film does it all with a slow burn storytelling method dug up from the grave. It's not an original type of storytelling, but it's a classic, effective form forgotten by most modern horror films. The Woman in Black has brought old-fashioned British horror back into style.