It’s hard to believe this pant-poopingly scary film is a 12, but you know me, I’ll scream at anything. People love to watch horror flicks with me because I jump so dramatically at every spook that it makes them feel on edge, thus amplifying the scares. It’s far from the most scary film I’ve seen, but nestles in comfortably between What Lies Beneath and The Others for old-fashioned chills.
Daniel Radcliffe puts in a competent enough performance as Arthur Kipps that you get over the Harry Potter jokes within the first few minutes. Then you might be forgiven for spending a brief time noting how handsome he’s turned out before recoiling from the weirdness and putting that thought out of your mind, thank you very much. After which you’ll just forget it’s got Harry Potter in it and get on with enjoying the film.
It’s the second adaptation I’ve seen of Susan Hill’s novel – the first was a TV movie which also didn’t quite follow the plot of Hill’s novel. The book, television show and film have three completely different, fairly crap endings. As for the beginning and middle, you can guess that from the “ghost story premise”. Young solicitor (and grieving widower) Kipps is sent to root around a spooky old mansion for a recently deceased widow’s will. Lots of things go bump in the night and he soon realises he’s being haunted by the widow’s bats*** insane dead sister. His infant son and the boy’s nanny are travelling up to join him, so Kipps has to solve the spooky mystery before the Woman in Black goes after his son.
Seriously, Kipps, what were you thinking? I know you need the money, but when the only person not trying to warn you away from the creepy mansion is Ciaran Hinds (accompanied by his clearly doolally missus, Janet McTeer), does it not occur to you to stay the f*** away?
We get that you’re half-suicidal, but death by ghost is not most people’s first choice of corporeal dispatch. Needlessly staying overnight alone in the obviously-haunted house is just asking for trouble. Surely a little common sense should have come into play.
HOW IT WOULD HAVE ENDED
At the beginning of the film, when Mr Jerome hands him the stack of papers and tells him to go back to London, he asks directly why he can’t go to the house. Mr Jerome explains about the ghost’s curse and massive death toll in the village.
Suitably spooked, Kipps thanks him and takes the next train back to London where he lies through his teeth to his boss and says that’s all he could find in the house. Mr Jerome, of course, will back him up on this. Lots of people stay alive, Kipps and Jerome remain penpals and the house is demolished.
Standard ghost story logic aside, it’s a well made and definitely creepy little film with plenty of well-timed shocks. As with all of these films, the more they reveal (in the final act), the less scary it becomes – but since it’s a 12-rated film, that’s no bad thing. I definitely would have been faintly traumatised had I seen this as a tween, but it’s fine Halloween fare for the less easily spooked.