For his first major post-Harry Potter role, Daniel Radcliffe plays a London lawyer sent to a remote village to settle the estate of a recently deceased recluse. Unfortunately, this woman lived in the familiar horror-movie locale of Creepyville, and her giant, foreboding old house is haunted by a ghost who has a habit of taking the lives of young children.
The Woman in Black follows classical horror conventions to the letter, but it’s handsomely crafted and effectively unsettling, mining plenty of scares from dead-eyed dolls, dim and musty rooms, pale-faced children and cryptic townspeople (and, more disappointingly, from sudden loud noises). Radcliffe holds his own quite well, especially during a long stretch of the movie featuring the lawyer alone in the house, which essentially turns into a one-man show.
There’s nothing new or unexpected about The Woman in Black, but it’s still a satisfying exercise in old-fashioned spookiness. –Josh Bell