Three pale English girls in floral smocks have a tea party and play with their dolls. Innocent enough, right? This is
a horror movie, so the warning bells should ring immediately that their fate won't be a happy one.
So goes the opening scene of The Woman in Black
, a bleak Edwardian-era supernatural chiller that sticks staunchly to the cliches of classic haunted house horror.
Young lawyer Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is assigned to take care of the matters of a recently deceased woman's estate. He leaves his four-year-old son Joseph (Radcliffe's real-life godson, Misha Handley) in London to visit the isolated village where the forebodingly named Eel Marsh House stands.
Locals Sam (Ciaran Hinds) and his wife Elizabeth (Janet McTeer) welcome him, but other villagers are less friendly. It's not long before Arthur realises a mysterious woman in black has had a terrifying effect on the town's children.
Yes, it's an unashamedly old-school ghost story based on a 1983 horror fiction novel, adapted by classic scaremongers, Hammer film studios. But there are at least six jump-in-your-seat moments that should send your popcorn – and heart rate – flying.
The tension is masterfully executed, especially in one sequence involving Arthur and Sam searching a muddy marsh at night. But a large chunk of the film is spent rolling out red herrings, like the relentless "don't open the door" moments where Arthur inevitably turns the doorknobs. When it's not tedious, it's desperately uptight.
Radcliffe holds it together with a virtually wordless, but still expressive performance. His post-Harry Potter
career isn't off to a bad start, but riskier projects should show off more of what he's capable of than The Woman in Black
Read our exclusive interview with Daniel Radcliffe about what he'd never do on film