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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.
Hollywood just can’t seem to get enough of Liam Neeson, and the 64 year-old Irish actor is reunites with Taken, Unknown and Non-Stop director, Jaume Collet-Serra, in the oddly enjoyable revenge-thriller, Run All Night.
On the surface, the film comes across as a typical Hollywood action set in the grimy underworld of criminals. But there’s much more at play and family and loyalty are the key themes behind the flawed, yet surprisingly moving and thrilling, script. Written by Brad Ingelsby, the story is centered on Jimmy Conlon (Neeson); a notorious ex-hit man who no longer works the trade of killing, but is still very much linked to his childhood-friend-turned-crime-boss, Shawn Maguire (Harris); a relationship that the tenacious Detective Harding (D’Onofrio) keeps a close eye on.
Things start to go awry for the regretful Jimmy when his estranged, aspiring boxer son, Mike (Kinnaman), witnesses Shawn’s son, Danny, commit a murder. Determined to eliminate any possibility of being found out, Danny goes after Mike and loyalties between the two fathers are tested.
Set in New York City, this is not just another Neeson’s special-set-of-skills affair; there is a genuine story here and a substantial amount of character development. Few actors can embody regret and emotional self-torture like Neeson and, though the film bears all the hallmarks of modern action flick , it gives it depth. Additionally, the film’s action segments are equally entertaining, if a little low on production values and Serra manages to make much use of the NYC backdrop by filling it with exciting chase sequences and ferocious shootouts
There’s an intangible electricity that sparks every now and again through the film – something that is owed almost entirely to the two leads. There’s something mesmerising about watching Neeson and the criminally underrated Ed Harris working opposite one another in their very-first onscreen appearance together. The two veterans share a fair amount of screen-time and a decent dose of chemistry, while D’Onofrio plays his part as a dedicated cop. And so despite a lack of any real originality, these elements all add up to give Run All Night all the gravitas it needs to keep its viewers happy and satisfied, if not intellectually challenged.
Courtesy of the infamous Blumhouse Productions, The Lazarus Effect is the latest thriller to dabble in the world of the undead, doesn’t have all that much new to show or say. Directed by David Gelb, the film’s rehashed premise – see Joel Schumacher’s Flatliners – lacks energy, leaving audiences with,' well, not very much.
The Lazarus Effect tells the story of engaged medical researchers,Frank (Duplass) and Zoe (Wilde), who, along with their team – Clay (Peters), Niko (Glover) and Eva (Bolger) – have just broken new ground by creating a serum that can bring back the dead. Commence eye-rolling. After successfully bringing a dead dog back to life, the team notice that some of the side-effects of the procedure are a little worrisome; the experiment has led to an increased brain-activity in the canine and particularly aggressive behaviour. Uh-oh!
However, their project is soon shut down by a large pharmaceutical company that has recently bought the company that has been funding them all this time.
Feeling like they’re on the verge of a groundbreaking discovery, Frank and Zoe sneak back into the lab, only for Zoe to be fatally electrocuted, leaving Frank no option but to inject her with the serum – cue mayhem.
Taking place almost entirely in the confines of a small science lab, The Lazarus Effect is strangely short – it clocks in at a brief eighty-three minutes – and it doesn’t take too long before its relatively engaging start descends into a big ball of horror jolts and clichés. Hiding behind dialogue weighed down by gobbledegook, behind the pseudoscience is very little real substance or originality.
Surprisingly, unlike its premise, the acting is solid and the group of young actors manage to create a believable and somewhat likable onscreen group-chemistry. As for Olivia Wilde, she’s definitely the glue that keeps the entire thing from falling apart; creepy and villainous, she makes for one beautiful and genuinely frightening antihero. But not even that can save what is tired and half-baked film – that’s not to mention the outrageously, unsatisfying abrupt ending.