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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.
Unlike the first two films in the wildly popular cinematic adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ young-adult novels, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I –the first instalment of a two-piece finale – is an underwhelming and slightly hollow watch.
Mockingjay Part I begins shortly after the end of Catching Fire, which saw Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) pulled out and rescued from the games by game-maker, Plutarch Heavensbee (Hoffman), and mentor, Haymitch Abernathy (Harrelson).
Brought underground and aided by the District 13 rebels – led by President Alma Coin (Moore) – Katniss is asked to serve as the face of the growing revolt against President Snow and his tyranny over Panem. However, getting the young-rebel on board is not easy, as Katniss – whose beloved home district was levelled by Snow’s bombers in the previous instalment – is still trying to overcome the loss of her fellow District 12 champion, Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson), who has now become a prisoner of the Capitol.
Desperate to bring Peeta back to safety, Katniss soon agrees to become the ‘Mockingjay’ and operate as a symbol of hope and resistance for the people of Panem.
Just like Harry Potter and Twilight – other similarly structured franchises that have split the big finale into two or three parts – Mockingjay Part 1 feels abrupt. Granted, it’s unfair to judge a two-part film as, essentially, one arc is running through both, but a film released on its own can only be watched on its own and this first part spends its two-hour-plus running time setting up the pieces of the puzzle and building up the story with no payoff.
This is somewhat remedied by returning director Francis Lawrence’s focus on big battle scenes, though once again, there’s no real payoff, no punch-line.
One thing that won’t be put into question is another engaging, emotional and an overall solid performance from Oscar-winning actress, Jennifer Lawrence, who manages to keep the story kicking, regardless of its awkward pacing. Other returning faces, which included Hoffman, Harrelson, Hutcherson and Banks, are all equally reliable and, as the determined President Snow, Sutherland is once again a strong and a dependable villain.
The latest low-budget Blumhouse Productions horror production, Jessabelle; a voodoo-worshipping Louisiana-bayou set thriller that is sadly, not as scary nor as ghostly as it wants itself to be.
Set in a misty Louisiana, Jessabelle follows Jessie (Snook); a woman dealing with the loss of her fiancé and unborn child to a car accident that has also put her in a wheelchair. With her life seemingly in ruins, Jessie is left with no choice but to move back into her family home with her estranged, alcoholic father, Leon (Andrews).
Uncertain of what the future holds, Jessie finds it difficult to adjust to her new life, not least because she has to spend her nights sleeping in her deceased mother’s bed. Soon after, though, her life takes on a new route of mystery when Jessie discovers a secret box – labelled Jessabelle, packed with seemingly worn-out VHS tapes. Filled with mysterious recordings of her mother’s tarot-reading to her unborn child – whom Jessie assumes is her – she finds comfort in seeing her mother, though Leon insists that she dispose of the tapes.
Intrigued by the cryptic messages and her father’s strange reaction to her findings, Jessie decides to dig deeper and along with old-friend, Preston (Webber).
The atmosphere and air around Jessabelle could be described as relatively eerie and the film maintains a degree of plausibility – at least more so than many of its peers. When you dig deeper to the heart of the story, however, the film comes up short and is rather timid for a horror film. This is made all the more obvious by the fact that the film almost insists on using every clichéd horror trick in the book.
Despite the plot’s lack of edge originality, Snook – previously seen in movies such as Sisters of War and Not Suitable for Children – manages to command the screen relatively well, while Webber was equally pleasing as Jessie’s Knight in Shining Armour.
Despite a reasonably promising build-up and a commendable attempt to bring a certain verity to a genre that requires more suspension of disbelief than most, the pay-off just isn't satisfying.