The Woman in Black


A ghost story set in a never-clearly-defined era (the fashion suggests Victorian, the automobiles Edwardian), The Woman in Black aids in the reanimation of a cadaver: the long-moribund production company Hammer Films, rebooted in 2010. The movie, featuring Daniel Radcliffe’s first leading role post–Harry Potter, also helps keep at least one career from meeting an early demise. If director James Watkins’s second film, based on Susan Hill’s 1983 novel, is about as scary as the haunted house your big cousins made in the basement, Radcliffe, as widowed lawyer Arthur Kipps, at least gives a moving portrayal of grief. Still inconsolable four years after his wife died during childbirth, Arthur, whose bereavement has been affecting his work, bids his son goodbye and takes a train from London to the northeastern marshlands of Crythin Gifford to settle the estate of Mrs. Drablow, a recently deceased local eccentric. From the mysterious woman’s window, he spots the wraith of the title; meanwhile, the bodies of pallid children keep piling up. The connection between the two is almost beside the point: The plot is subordinate to lengthy scenes of hollow-eyed Arthur wandering in silence through Drablow’s manor, hearing the voices of the furious dead and seeming all too ready to join them.