There’s something deeply satisfying about a well done, small budget ($13 Million doesn’t buy you a lot these days) horror film. More than any other genre, horror tends to suffer more from budget inflation in terms of quality – as the money men continually poke at the returns and take the teeth away in order to maximise potential audience. The Woman in Black doesn’t suffer from this, partly due to the fact that in its origins as an old fashioned ghost story it relies less on gore and more on suggestion to create its sense of unease.
There’s also something deeply satisfying about the return of Hammer to the fold. Aside from co-funding the remake of “Let the Right One In”, they’ve so far concentrated on DVD rather than cinema release, so seeing the old legend up on the screen has more than a tint of nostalgia to it. Thankfully, the film itself more than lives up to the promise, recalling films such as “The Haunting” (the original version, not the travesty of a remake) in its desire to give you the creeps, rather than the modern jump-scare routine.
Much of the success lies on the shoulders of Daniel Radcliffe, who seems determined to put the ghost of Harry Potter as far as possible behind him. He’s barely off the screen and manages to more than hold his own against the sea of character actors who make up the rest of the cast. He initially seems quite uncomfortable in the role, but soon you figure out that it is part of the act – he’s deeply troubled, not by what is going on but by the past.
Elsewhere, the director does a fine job of building the mood, using the full extent of the frame to suggest there is more going on than is. Only towards the end does it fall back on the modern CGI-monster, and here it unfortunately loses some of its momentum as a result – it’s far more effective when relying solely on in camera effects. The ending is slightly weak compared to the rest of the film as well, if it finished two minutes earlier without the almost happy ending it would be far stronger – but these are just minor quibbles really, especially given the gloriously tongue-in-cheek final shot that reminds you just who is behind the film.
Best of all, this seems to be signalling a resurgence in the British horror industry, one more interested in scaring the hell out of you rather than overwhelming you with a tide of gore. With this and last years excellent “Kill List” we seem to have decided not to follow Hollywood’s lead and return to what we know best.
Well worth the time and effort to see.