The Woman in Black
Directed by Joseph Watkins
Moving onward from Harry Potter, Daniel Radcliffe acquits himself admirably as Arthur Kipps, a Victorian-era widower and father racked by a grief that may cost him his job as an attorney and earn him the wrath of an evil spirit who may be after Arthur's four-year-old son (Misha Handley). That's the premise of The Woman in Black, a truly haunting and hypnotic ghost story that earns its chills old-school through artful atmospherics and no switching to the torture porn default position like so many recent horrorshows. It's not that director James Watkins (Eden Lake) doesn't resort to the tired tricks that come with things that go bump in the night. He does. Sound effects that make you jump in your seat wear out their welcome from overuse. In adapting Susan Hill's 1983 novel, screenwriter Jane Goldman (Kick-Ass) could have used more humor to stir the plot. But Radcliffe, looking believably mature and distraught, gives a stellar performance that never suggests the boy wizard who made him a star. Radcliffe is the focus of nearly every scene as Arthur travels to the remote village of Crythin Gifford to settle the estate of a woman who has just passed on. Or did she? And why are children suddenly dying as Arthur appears? The villagers, with the exception of Mr. Daly (Ciaran Hinds) and his wife (Albert Nobbs Oscar nominee Janet McTeer), want Arthur gone yesterday. But even this couple hides a scary secret. You'll get no spoilers from me. The Woman in Black doesn't break new ground, but in its suggestions of fine film ghost stories, from The Innocents to The Others and The Orphanage, it works you over with riveting restraint.