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The Woman In Black: An Occasionally Scary Ghost Story
Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) is still depressed over his wife’s passing four years ago and his work is suffering as a result. As a last chance, his boss gives him an assignment to take care of some business in a remote village; he’s to deal with a mountain of paperwork needed to put a manor on the market – one that’s owner recently died and which the locals don’t seem very eager to sell. Undeterred by the very hostile, unhelpful locals, Kipps begins to work at the house and there he starts to see the ghost of the eponymous woman in black. He slowly pieces the puzzle together, figuring out her identity and the relationship between her and the deaths, both past and present, of many of the children in the village.
The film’s selling point seems to be Daniel Radcliffe, who stars in his first role post Harry Potter, which is great except that he happens to be the weakest part of the film. He’s not bad per se, he’s just woefully miscast. He plays a depressed father to a four-year old whose mother died during childbirth. The thing is, Radcliffe doesn’t look old enough to be a father let alone to a four-year old, and the way he interacts with his onscreen child is more reminiscent of a sibling relationship, or one between a babysitter and their ward, rather than that of a father and child. Other than that, he does a good job portraying a man grappling with feelings of guilt and forced to be in a place that reminds him of his deepest fear at every turn.
What’s really different about this film, at least compared to newer horror productions, is that it allows for breathing space. The film doesn’t shy away from long, quiet shots that aim to set up the atmosphere. These scenes lull you into a false sense of complacency before boom! A shrieking head pops out, or a wind-up toy suddenly starts moving. Thankfully, the screaming humans, running around frantically, are kept to a minimum. The film is also filled with children who get up and quietly commit suicide. The opening scene – which is of three young girls playing – shows them as they get up, cross over to the window and in sync, silently throw themselves out of it. As beautiful as it is, it is also disturbing – it sets up the film’s quietly eerie tone very well.
For the most part though, this is a run of the mill ghost story where floorboards creak, doors slam at their own accord and shadowy figures pop out, scare the daylights out of everyone then disappear again. There’s nothing in it that we haven’t seen a billion times before and while it isn’t scary – not by a long shot – it will make you jumpy; the occasionally over the top score makes sure of that. The Woman in Black brings nothing new to the table but it makes better use of the generic ghost tricks than most films of this ilk.
Written by Stephen Cyrus Sepher and Max Adams, ingenuity and common sense seem to be missing from Scott Mann’s unoriginal and generic low-budget thriller, Heist –and it’s a problem that not even the great Robert De Niro can do anything about.
After a seemingly violent intro, we are introduced to The Pope (De Niro in one of his sleepiest roles to date); a feared casino owner who rules over his business and his people with an iron fist, alongside his equally fearful right-hand-man and enforcer, Dog (Chestnut). Working as Swan Casino’s blackjack card dealer is Vaughn (Morgan); an ex-military man trying to earn enough money to pay off his young daughter’s medical bills due to her ongoing cancer treatments.
Faced with a deadline to come up with $300,000 or his daughter loses her spot in hospital, Vaughn finds himself embroiled in some funny-business with casino security guard, Cox (Bautista), who along with a team of robbers, is planning to rob the Pope.
With elements taken from other - better - movies such as Speed - there's a lot of time spent on a hijacked speeding bus - John Q and even Ocean’s Eleven, there’s very little creativity or vision in Heist – everything just feels very routine. The dialogue is poor - some of the lines will most definitely fall under the ‘some of the most ridiculous things said in movie history’ category - and the attempt of inducing any substance or emotional depth is quickly derailed by the story’s loose approach to reason and logic.
It’s yet another disappointing turn from the Oscar-winning actor, Robert De Niro - it’s becoming difficult to believe that this is the same actor who played Jake La Motta in Raging Bull or Vito Corleone in The Godfather - who once again sleepwalks through the motions of a ‘ruthless’ casino owner who is forced to mend burned bridges when faced with his own mortality. Morgan, on the other hand, gives a slightly stronger offering while everyone else, including Bautista and Carano, are as bland and flavourless as the very film that they’ve found themselves in.
Bearing strong resemblances to Stephen King’s undeniably terrifying 1990’s thriller, Misery- minus Kathy Bates and its unnerving energy, of course - Michael Polish’s Amnesiac - written by Amy Kolquist and Mike Lee - fails to deliver the goods, falling short of the thrills needed to keep audiences on its toes.
Amnesiac introduces Man (Bentley) - who remains unnamed throughout the proceedings along with the rest of the cast - who has just woken up from a coma, finding himself bed-bound in an unfamiliar home with no memory of how he got there. He is soon greeted by Woman (Bosworth), who informs him that she is his wife and that she is there to nurse him back to health.
Uncertain about her intentions, Man soon begins to be haunted by a series of flashbacks which take him back to a time just before the car accident occurred where he sees the face of a mysterious little girl (Keegan) sitting in the back seat. While he works hard to put the pieces of his fragmented memory back into place, his ‘wife’ starts acting strangely and even tries to rekindle their ‘marriage’ via strange acts of seduction.
While it might be fun to watch Bosworth play the role of a bizarre-looking, creepily serene and a psychotic woman who spends most of her time looking dazed whilst blurting out random trivia, there just isn’t enough personality or character to the rest of the story to keep viewers engaged. Sombre and with a handful of moments of violence and gore, the biggest problem with Amnesiac is that it lacks depth. The film doesn’t really explore its character’s motivations or impulses, which is particularly puzzling when it comes to Bosworth’s character; her inexplicable behaviour is never explained, leaving the film and its overall impact with an underwhelming sense of incompletion.
As hard as he might have tried, Bentley is no James Caan - that’s not to say the Bosworth came anywhere near the greatness of one Kathy Bates, wither - and his bedridden moments of pure despair fail to really pull you into his predicament, leaving us with very little reason to care for his wellbeing.
Much like the film itself, he’s indistinctive as a character and a little too forgettable as the protagonist of the piece. The set-up is there – man wakes up to a life he knows nothing about and subsequently falls into a rabbit hole of lies and truths – but the execution and overall innovation just isn’t there.