Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
February 2, 2012
*1/2 (out of four)
If it looks like a haunted house and sounds like a haunted house, it is probably a haunted house.
Yet the ominously remote location and eerie appearance that practically includes a sign reading “Stay away, you fool!” aren’t enough to deter Arthur Kipps (Daniel “Harry Potter” Radcliffe), a young lawyer sent to finalize some paperwork and deliver on one last chance to save his job. Obviously Kipps has little faith in his employment prospects; the more he sees screaming ghosts and learns about deceased children, the more he insists on walking slowly down dark hallways in search of something unlikely to complete his assigned task.
Working from Susan Hill’s Victorian-era novel, writer Jane Goldman and director James Watkins subscribe to the notion that it’s always terrifying for something spooky to appear and then disappear on second glance. Since they also don’t think that will be enough to scare anyone who’s seen a horror movie before, the generic “The Woman in Black” frequently accentuates its brooding, aimless scenes with music that sounds like someone dropped an elephant on a piano.
The film seems to move ploddingly toward depth Radcliffe never conveys and a twist that never comes. In the meantime, Kipps fails to suggest much commitment to his own 4-year-old child (whose mother died during childbirth) by running into a burning building. Or perhaps fire isn't a big deal—considering the guy spends one gloomy day after another surrounded by tales of dead children and the pressure of paperwork, maybe we're supposed to think he’s already in hell.
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