The Woman in Black (2012)
How many times are we gonna hear this freaking story already?
The Woman in Black is about a young lawyer from ye olde England who sets out for the country to settle the affairs of a recently deceased woman. He rolls up to town, asks for a room, and is greeted with a royally cold shoulder from everyone he meets. They hide their kids, they hide their wives, because Daniel Radcliffe be unintentionally dooming everyone up in there. But for some reason, no one clues this lawyer into why they don’t want him around. Apparently, the late broad whose house he’s going to visit is largely thought to be the reason there are so many dead kids in town. So totally aloof as to his situation, he heads off to his client’s abode with the help of a kindly fellow he met on the train. He settles in, completely ignores all the creepy shit littering the mansion, and as he begins to dig up this lady’s shady past, it isn’t long before he realizes why everyone’s been such a dick to him lately.
Now, I was actually looking forward to this movie. Not because it was Radcliffe’s first role post-Harry Potter, and not because I was hoping it would reinvent the genre or anything. The only cause for excitement here was due to an absolutely phenomenal trailer that scared the goo right out of me and everyone else who saw it (see below…IF YOU DARE). As if my embarrassing fear of dolls wasn’t bad enough already, it convinced me that its been-there-done-that premise was anything but, it made me forget about how disappointing The Strangers ended up being despite its brilliant trailer – a lesson I thought I’d never forget. Despite my better judgment, I was hook, line, and sinker. But as much as I can ramble about everything it did wrong, I have no one to blame but myself. Fool me twice, right?
All the same, still gonna ramble.
The fact of the matter is that The Woman in Black gives us nothing that we haven’t seen before and instead borrows heavily from movies that people really need to stop borrowing from. For example, the first half of the movie is essentially a British version of The Grudge. It starts the exact same way with someone launching themselves out a window for no apparent reason, then shifts to the viewpoint of our protagonist who’s already on their way to investigate the cause even though they don’t know it yet. Everything’s cool until they show up to a haunted house, and, by their mere presence, awaken a dormant spirit that starts offing folks left and right. Once that’s all settled, the film makers remember that The Grudge was actually a rip-off of The Ring, and so they shift their focus to jacking that movie right up until the very end. If you’ve seen The Ring, you know where this is going. If you haven’t seen The Ring, watch that instead of this. You’re welcome.
Anyhow, this turning point from The Grudge to The Ring is where things get infuriating.
Now, Daniel Radcliffe spends all of two nights at the said haunted mansion. The first night is spent tooling around for a few hours before hitting the sack in town, the second night he actually decides to sleep there on his own free will. The driving force behind this ridiculous decision is that Radcliffe is hard up for cash and needs to get this lady’s estate taken care of so that he can keep his job at the law firm. He does have reason to stick it out, but by the same token, self preservation takes precedence in these matters, and no one in their right mind would ever go back to that house, let alone spend the freakin’ night, after the unexplainable crap that this guy witnesses on his first visit.
Nevertheless, he does stay the second night, and as is a rule in horror movies, this idiotic decision warrants death. Rather than listening to the advice of everyone around him by taking the midnight train back to London, he proceeds to investigate the mansion and acts like it’s perfectly normal for rocking chairs to rock violently when no one’s sitting in them. Probably happened all the time back then. And on that note, there is nothing subtle about how clearly haunted his new abode is. Screw tricks of the eye or imagining things, this is some Zuul shit we’re talking about. Plus, there is no real explanation or justification for why he opts to help The Woman in Black rather than burn her house down and find a new job. It is one red flag after another, he has the complete opposite reaction to them as every human being would, and you’ll spend the rest of the movie rolling your eyes and yelling at the screen as a result.
On top of all that nonsense, it makes zero sense that no one in town would tell him outright why they don’t want him there or what might happen if he stays. Just tap him on the shoulder, buy him a cold one, and say, “Dude, I know you’ve got a job to do and everything, but this house you’re going to, that shit is haunted by one seriously bad bitch. Sounds crazy, I know, but here’s the 411…” Easy peasy Japanesey. At worst, you risk sounding like a loon, but it just might save your kid from dying. At best, everyone else in town echoes your opinion, Daniel Radcliffe goes home, and you’re not only doing him a favor, but guaranteeing that everyone’s kids stop dying. I can’t be the only person who came to this conclusion. Everyone in this movie kind of sucks.
I mean, is it really that hard to write a horror movie where people behave like people? Is that really so much to ask? Serenity now, man.
Although if there is a saving grace to this movie, it’s that it looks absolutely gorgeous. The scenery and locations, inside and out, are absolutely top-notch, and the faded color tones throughout do a spectacular job of setting the mood. And it really is too bad that I can’t bring myself to give this a higher Verdict if only for this very reason. Then again, just because someone looks like a goddamn supermodel doesn’t mean I’ll stand by and let them yell “BOO!” at me from behind a corner for 95 minutes. Nothing is that pretty, not even Daniel Radcliffe.
Aside from the visuals, The Woman in Black isn’t entirely ineffective as it does have some cheap scares going for it. Nothing you won’t see coming, but enough to induce a fear snuggle from your date. If that’s what you’re looking for, you won’t be disappointed. But if you were just as duped by that trailer as I was, you’re in for a rude awakening, friend. As I said, it’s my own damn fault for getting my hopes so high, and that certainly played a factor. Still, it’s been a pretty underwhelming year for horror movies thus far, and this ain’t helping matters any.
What a totally garbage ending, too.