The good grade I give to The Woman in Black is not necessarily to be confused with a recommendation, though for some it will be. The film is dark, frightening, and deeply disturbing. Those who like scary movies will find much to enjoy here: I would describe its tone and style as a mix of The Grudge and The Others. Fans curious to see star Daniel Radcliffe’s first major role after Harry Potter, be warned. This film is considerably darker and more terrifying than that series (which itself never skimped on scares or dread) and has little of the hope, humor, love, and light that brought balance to the wizard franchise.
The Woman in Black‘s high marks come from my observation that it takes a rather cliched formula and enhances it with good acting, complex characters (for this type of film), and chilling mythology. It also employs masterful use of cinematography, wardrobe, set design, lighting, sound, and editing to create a palpable, richly detailed atmosphere of fear. What it sets out to do, it does very well, pushing the film past some “haunted house” cliches. Genuine thrills and suprises, likewise, make up for some predictable plot points. Within minutes Radcliffe effectively breaks free from Potter’s shadow, no small feat considering he’s spent eight films and ten years inhabiting that role. Veteran actor Ciaran Hinds gives a wonderfully layered supporting performance.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: The Woman in Black is rated PG-13. There is a little mild profanity and no sexuality or nudity. However, there is plenty of horrific imagery involving suicide, murder, decomposing ghosts, and the deaths of children. The film starts out creepy and builds on a tone of menace and dread, with plenty of startling moments.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Can families be reunited after death?
Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor’s degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.