By Roger Moore McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Daniel Radcliffe acquits himself reasonably well in his first adult big-screen role, a man haunted by “The Woman in Black.”
He plays a young lawyer, a single father and widower with enough conviction to make this spooky period piece credible, though one might wish for a little more fear in the character and in his performance when confronted by the supernaturally sinister.
I guess once you’ve faced down Lord Voldemort, you ain’t afraid of no ghosts.
Arthur Kipps is a failing young barrister in the Britain of the early 1920s. He still grieves for his wife, who died in childbirth, and pays a little too much attention to the spiritualist ads in his local newspaper. That’s how much he longs to see her again.
But he has a young son to support, so he seizes one last chance to prove himself to his firm: a trek to the north of Britain, to the marshy east coast where he must rummage through the papers of a family whose long-abandoned mansion, Eel Marsh, is to be sold.
The residents of the dank, gray and backward little village of Crythin Gifford aren’t very welcoming. There’s no room at the inn, no smile at any door. They want him gone, and quick. And as the film’s opening scene has shown three village girls hurl themselves out of a window, we know there’s tragedy there.
Only the county’s wealthiest man, Samuel Daily (Ciaran Hinds), will give Arthur the time of day. He hints at an explanation for the apparition Arthur has seen at Eel Marsh, but he dismisses it: “Don’t go chasing shadows, Arthur.”
Naturally, that’s exactly what Arthur does.
There’s a lot of atmosphere, but not a lot of urgency to this James Watkins (“Eden Lake”) film. The back story may be only sketched in, but the chilling moments arrive with a bracing, hair-raising jolt.
Oscar nominee Janet McTeer (“Albert Nobbs”) is a special effect herself, playing the mercurial, mad Mrs. Daily.
The bottom line on “The Woman in Black” is that it is a very spooky movie. Old-fashioned and old school, it makes a convincing case for life after death and, for Radcliffe, life after Harry Potter.
“The Woman in Black”
A spooky story set in damp and gray 1920s England is Daniel Radcliffe’s first real adult film and it’s a worthy vehicle. Although the explanations may fall short, the results are properly chilling. With Janet McTeer and Ciaran Hinds.
Rated: PG-13 for thematic material and violence.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinnebarre, Everett Mall, Galaxy Monroe, Marsyville, Meridian, Metro, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.