Friday, February 3, 2012

The Woman in Black

A haunted house, things that go bump in the night and a gigantic yawn of a plot. Made for anyone who enjoys cheesy, nonsensical horror movies.

Rated PG-13

for thematic material and violence/disturbing images.

The Woman in Black

Horror movies are all the same nowadays, especially the PG-13 variety. They’ve become pigeonholed into telling the same story over and over only in different time periods. It’s become almost impossible to distinguish one horror film from the other, since they all seem to be following the same tired plot of troubled ghosts needing some help from the living.

It’s around the turn of the century and Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a lawyer who is venturing out to a remote English village to finish the sale of a large estate there. Of course the house he goes to is large, overgrown with weeds and has all manner of scary creaks, bumps and strange looking dolls just to add in some cheap scares.

The moment Arthur arrives at the house he finds himself becoming witness to some strange happenings. People appear at the end of hallways and then disappear just as quickly. A rocking chair moves on its own. He swears he sees a vision of a woman dressed all in black, but he can’t be sure. That’s a rule in horror movies. No one is ever sure they saw what they saw, even though they did. The other rule in horror movies is that no matter how pressing the issue, no matter how scary the situation may seem the protagonist must walk down darkened hallways as slowly as possible. The only reason this movie reaches its 96 minute runtime is because Arthur moves like molasses whenever he’s confronted with a new unexplained noise.

You know that this is going to be a cheesy horror movie when the first three scares aren’t really scares at all. They’re simply setting up the mood, rather terribly I might add. A loud boom on the soundtrack follows closely behind a crow suddenly flying through a window, or a person standing right behind Arthur. Only in horror movies do regular, everyday people quietly sneak up on people and then stand there completely stone-faced when the other person takes fright.

There’s a story here, but like every other horror movie to come before it the story is as close to unnecessary as you can get. The first 40 minutes of the movie is spent trying to scare the audience with one jump scare after another. None of the movie’s scare tactics are subtle or disconcerting. Almost all of them involve something jumping out from around a corner like in a haunted house. The camera plays tricks on the audience, making us believe that the characters on screen are only able to see with the field of vision from a camera. Scary things hide right behind corners as the camera slowly pans to them not realizing that the character on screen would be able to see whatever it is already.

The last part of the movie is when Arthur suddenly realizes, out of nowhere, exactly what he must do to satisfy the angry spirit of the woman in black. How he comes to this conclusion is never explained, other than the movie was running a bit too long and the filmmakers decided they’d had enough pointless scaring and needed some way to actually move this story along.

You’ve already seen The Woman in Black numerous times, even if you never go and see it in theaters. It’s a paint-by-numbers horror movie that includes no originality whatsoever. It’s The Orphanage-lite. It’s not worth your time, even if you are a horror movie buff.

2 out of 5

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