“I believe even the most rational mind can play tricks in the dark…”
Teaching Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black to a room full of hostile 13 year olds has taught me that teenagers perhaps don’t appreciate the Gothic pastiche as much as I do. And yet they uniformly all loved the 2012 film adaptation. Having seen two different stage adaptations as well having taught The Woman in Black in a professional capacity for a number of months, I am in the unique position of actually being able to confidently give an opinion on something, without worrying that I will say something hideously stupid.
The plot is a simple one and thus remains pretty much untouched through any medium. Arthur Kipps is tasked with dealing with the affairs of an elderly and reclusive woman after she dies. When he arrives at the small town of Crythin Gifford, it is clear that something is very wrong. Kipps must deal with hostile locals and whatever haunts the old house if he is to escape.
Having read the book, Daniel Radcliffe seems an odd choice for Arthur Kipps. It is jarring to see an actor, who has so helped to define the modern era of popular culture, appearing in a period horror. He doesn’t really have the required look but his performance is solid enough. Better suited are Ciaran Hinds (or Mance Rayder for any GOT fans) and Roger Allam, playing Kipps’ friend and employer respectively. Their lived in, confident performances only serve to further undermine the boyish turn from Radcliffe.
Questionable casting aside, director James Watkins does a great job in capturing the slow build up of tension and creepy atmosphere of the book and also reveals a different side to his work after the much more shocking and violent Eden Lake.
The Woman in Black is about as good as a film adaptation was likely to be.