The question on everybody’s mind is whether Daniel Radcliffe can capture success beyond portraying ‘The Boy Who Lived.’ Hollywood is filled with plenty of examples where the success of a franchise has stereotyped an actor in a way that’s impossible for him or her to break free from. Miss Emma Watson, Radcliffe’s co-star in the “Harry Potter” franchise, displayed her versatility late last year in “My Week With Marilyn,” and now it is Radcliffe’s turn with his latest offering “The Woman in Black”. Horror, in my opinion, is the best genre Radcliffe could have chosen to re-launch his career in the post-Harry Potter era, because it gives him the space to exploit his acting talent while being at ease with the same eerie surroundings that formed the backdrop of the Harry Potter series. Does he succeed? Well, the answer to that question may vary from viewer to viewer. However, the biggest problem for Daniel Radcliffe is that more than any of his co-stars in Harry Potter, each and every performance by him will be weighed against the backdrop of the monumental success of the boy wizard. Keeping that in spectrum, “The Woman in Black,” which in itself is the screen adaptation of the novel by the same name written by the acclaimed Susan Hill, can best be described as a retro horror movie reminiscent of the atmospheric horror films where everything from the door to even the window curtains were crucial ingredients to create spine-chilling moments. The plot of the movie cannot be classified as that of tell-all plots but one which the audience will have to gradually grow into as the movie progresses into greater depths of darkness. The abandoned mansion is the juncture for trepidation and borrows heavily from the old-fashioned hauntings. The strength of the movie, however, lies in the excellent background score, thereby, setting the scene for some of the most pulse-racing moments in recent memory. The fog and the accompanying marshlands serve fittingly well to remind us of the time when horror movies were made to frighten and not entertain and when ghosts were simply ghosts before they metamorphosed into psychotic serial killers.
The performance by Daniel Radcliffe, as I mentioned before, is susceptible to a mixed response. For some he may appear to be stagnant and for some ‘Arthur Kipps’, Radcliffe’s character, may be an ideal follow-up to ‘Harry Potter’. In my opinion, Radcliffe does a commendable job for an actor who was required to be in every single frame of the movie. His expressions and body language are sincere to the plot of the movie and dictates the terms in which the movie must progress. In other words, his performance is solid and one which leaves few spaces for flaws. Even for those who might call him stagnant, it may be worthwhile to note that the script demanded an actor who would be suitable for a slow narrative of an atmospheric horror movie. Radcliffe is ably supported by Ciaran Hinds, who returns to the screen after the debacle of ‘Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance’ and for a change Mr. Hinds is restrained in his presence on the screen as the only man in the town with a car and husband to a mentally deranged woman. Radcliffe lives the moments of his personal grief and the urge to solve the mysteries in the abandoned mansion in a befittingly sound manner. The direction by James Watkins is adequate and it is actually good to see that Hammer Film Productions have made an attempt to restore their lost glory.
“The Woman in Black” is not a classical horror fare nor is it filled with blood-spilling moments but it is a sort of movie that people might mention as ‘lot like the ones I used to see so much in my childhood’. “The Woman in Black” was more of a litmus test for Radcliffe and more or less he succeeds in trying to portray Arthur Kipps without achieving any significant red marks on his enactment sheet. Though slow and somewhat lengthy, “The Woman in Black” is an ideal watch for anyone wishing for a throw back in times and with a bit more attention to the script it could have become a perfect re-launch vehicle for Daniel Radcliffe rather than being a case of so-near-yet-so-far.