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Guest Review: ‘The Woman in Black’

Is There Life After Harry Potter for Daniel Radcliffe?

Above: Daniel Radcliffe plays widower, Arthur Kipps, in "The Woman in Black."

Daniel Radcliffe returns to the big screen for the gothic horror flick, "Woman in Black" (opening February 3 throughout San Diego) from director James Watkins.

Here’s a riddle for you: How many scary clown dolls, empty rocking chairs or shadow children does it take to evoke any emotion out of Daniel Radcliffe?

“Woman in Black” is directed by James Watkins, noted for his previous thriller, “Eden Lake,” and features young troubadour, Daniel Radcliffe in his first feature since the final "Harry Potter" film. The movie follows Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe); a widowed, lawyer sent on a last-chance-to-prove-himself case by his employer to a remote English village along the coast. Resolute to prove himself and provide for his son, Kipps disregards the foreboding townsfolk and investigates the final estate of an isolated mansion with a disturbing history.

Here's the trailer.

Back to the riddle.

In all seriousness, with the countless creepy clown dolls and scream-in-your-face apparitions one finds all the common elements of a classic ghost story. Though well-cast, Daniel Radcliffe resembles the stoic, sometimes apathetic heroism seen in "Harry Potter." In other words, the guy just doesn’t freak out! You’d think that the main character would be more spooked or hesitant to investigate this ghoul-infested mansion as freely as he does. Noted, Radcliffe has talent when it comes to dialogue, action sequences, and movement. But in this case, it seems that Radcliffe cannot adequately relate to us mere mortals.

By no means does a scary/horror film need to be realistic, however, the elements used were far too recycled. The film plays these Victorian scare tactics like the winning hand, but it’s really the only card it has in its deck. Yet the movie displayed some quality jump scenes, the kind that catch the audience off-guard and keep one under a suspenseful spell. But the screams of terror first elicited by the audience turn to laughter. Unoriginality can be dealt with in small doses but in this case -- with so much regurgitated chum -- "The Woman in Black" is hard to swallow.

Rather than just tear this movie apart, there should be credit given where credit is due. The dark gothic landscape and quality cinematography gives a refreshing twist on the modern horror genre. Much of today’s horror genre follows high school spring breaks gone horribly bad, while this film is able to take the audience to a new setting and try something different. The Victorian house, British setting, and straightforward plot creates an environment that is sure to keep you entertained.

"The Woman in Black" is rated PG-13 for thematic material and violence/disturbing images.

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