There’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned ghost story, is there? Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black is a ghost story that has been scaring people for nearly thirty years, as both a book and as a West End spectacular that has seen many an A Level Drama student wet their pants with an equal measure of fear and excitement.

For its cinema outing, the sequence of events has been transformed although the central premise remains the same – Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a tormented, young solicitor sent to the remote town of Crythin Gifford to sort through the house of a recently-deceased recluse, where he soon becomes haunted by the ghost of a vengeful old hag in black who has the knack of encouraging young children to top themselves. Hilarity ensues. Or not, as the case made be.


Set in the late 1800s, a period that lends itself perfectly to ghoulish chillers, Director James Watkins (a man who scared us all shitless when he penned The Decent: Part 2) takes full advantage of the age to create a visually-attractive film, filling the decrepit house with glimpses of Victoriana and truly terrifying mechanical toys. The film is paced beautifully, allowing the suspense to build gradually and creating a quality of stillness that mirrors the repression of the town and its children. And then, all of a sudden, it’s over – a rush ending.

On top of this, cinema-goers need not worry about any pant-wetting scenarios here, because it is far too bloody predictable for any of that. Every single cliché is present, from eyes appearing at keyholes to faces appearing in the back of photographs, with a spot of black figures appearing from the shadows thrown in for good measure. You half expect a painting’s peepers to follow the cast around the room, or for a suit of armor to come to life. Furthermore, Radcliffe struggles to convince that he is tormented by his own lost love (something you’d think he’d be used to by now) and spends the whole film wearing a rather stupid, empty expression.

By Philippa Stubbs

Originally published in issue 35 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. February 2012.