A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that because Daniel Radcliffe stars in this period ghost story, even younger Harry Potter fans may want to see it. But even though there's not a lot of blood and gore, The Woman in Black isn't age appropriate for tweens or younger kids. There are several disturbing deaths in the movie, mostly children who kill themselves at the bequest of a ghost, and all of the scenes at the haunted estate are chock-full of creepy toys, strange noises, and freaky moments that will have audiences jumping in their seats. And the Woman in Black herself is terrifying. There's also some drinking, but not much in the way of language.
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What's the story?
In this adaptation of Susan Hill's Victorian-set ghost story, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a grieving young London widower raising a toddler son. A lawyer, Kipps is sent to a small shore town called Crythin Gifford to settle the estate of a recently deceased dowager, Mrs. Alice Drablow. But the moment he arrives in the town, the villagers try to run him off, refusing him a room and outright telling him to go back to London. Determined to make his firm happy (he's been put on notice), Kipps travels to Eel Marsh, Mrs. Drablow's deteriorating moorland estate, where he sees a figure of a woman dressed in black. Back at the village, children begin to die, and everyone points a finger at Kipps' meddling. As he delves into the estate's papers, Arthur is haunted by odd noises and visions until he realizes what the house's secret is and believes he knows how to stop THE WOMAN IN BLACK.
Is it any good?
Radcliffe is definitely a fine actor, and his 10 years of battling You Know Who on screen have trained him well to deal with intricate expressions of fear. He can, with the slightest of changes in posture or widening of his blue eyes, convey the terror that the audience is also experiencing in this jump-out-of-your-seat thriller. This is old school horror -- a ghost story full of creepy images of dolls and wind-up toys with freaky eyes, crows that appear seemingly out of nowhere, and kids who find ways of killing themselves to appease a vengeful specter.
But despite the movie's scream-worthy scenes, which are set up so leisurely that you just know you a surprise is coming, director James Watkins spends too much time creating the eerie mood and not enough propelling it forward. It's the kind of movie that feels two-hours-plus long, when it's actually only 95 minutes. At least the performances are good. Radcliffe is supported by two of Britain's most valuable players -- Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer -- as Mr. and Mrs. Daily, the wealthiest couple in Crythin Gifford. They too once lost a son and deal with it in frightening, comedic ways. Any scene with them in it is a highlight of the movie. It's lovely to see the Boy Who Lived move on, but don't expect The Woman in Black to be nearly as memorable as Harry Potter or as creepily mind-blowing as The Others.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: February 3, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: May 22, 2012
- Cast: Ciaran Hinds, Daniel Radcliffe, Janet McTeer
- Director: James Watkins
- Studio: Alliance Films
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Book Characters, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material, violence, and disturbing images
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