After putting paid to evil Lord Voldermort and his diabolical plans for world domination, Daniel Radcliffe’s got another malevolent child-killer to deal with.
With rather more modest ambitions than The Dark Lord (this one merely does for local nippers by showing her shadowy face), Dan’s new nemesis still has the power to terrify.
She’s the Woman in Black, an eerily spectral figure whose chilling appearance always presages the violent death of a child in the local village.
Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a lowly solicitor whose wife died in childbirth leaving him to raise his young son. He’s despatched to the bleak northern English coast by his London law firm to sort out the papers of the recently-deceased Alice Drablow.
The reception isn’t a warm one. The unfriendly pub has no record of his booking and advises him to take the first train home. The distracted local solicitor doesn’t want to get involved…and advises him to take the first train home.
The only friendly face is that of local landowner Sam Daily (Hinds), who invites him to stay and offers him a lift across the causeway to the foreboding Eel Marsh House, the decaying home of Mrs Drablow.
Pretty soon it’s obvious that he’s not alone – we hear muffled bangings from the old nursery and – more terrifyingly – a skeletal face peering over his shoulder as he looks out the window. It’s time to get the kids indoors.
Director James Watkins and writer Jane Goldman have taken Susan Hill’s spare 1983 novella and fashioned it into something quite different – a spookily rich (some would argue over-rich) gothic horror in the grand traditions of the house of Hammer.
Disappointingly, the opening 30 minutes play out like an American Werewolf in London-style parody with a village full of hostile yokels making it plain they’d like to see Dan on his bike.
Fortunately, when he’s installed in the (very) creepy house things pick up, with some genuine scares and a couple of truly terrifying encounters with the vengeful ghoul floating in a smoky cocoon of black malevolence.
(In fact, six seconds of cuts had to be made to get the movie a 12A rating.)
Radcliffe is well up to the challenge (even if he doesn't fully convince as a father) although you rather fancy its his fearless track record as HP that leads him to stay the night in a house where anybody with an ounce of sanity would opt for the nearest Travelodge.
Goldman has added some frankly unnecessary devices – Daily’s deranged wife and the exhumation of a body from the marshes draw the focus away from main narrative rather than embellish it.
Ultimately, though, it’s an effective chiller in the grand tradition of British horror with a couple of icy-bucket-of-water-down-your-neck moments.
See it…before she lets you see her.