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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.
If you’ve enjoyed the type of quirkiness in 2009’s Coraline or the creepy-goofiness of 2012’s ParaNorman, then The Boxtrolls – the latest stop-motion creation and an adaptation of Alan Snow’s Here Be Monsters! novel – might be right up your alley.
Directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi, The Boxtrolls is set in a Victorian-like city of Cheesebridge. The residents, through scary and gruesome fables, believe there are deadly Boxtrolls living underneath their streets.
When a human boy goes missing, it is believed that the scary monsters from down-under have eaten him. Archibald Snatcher (voiced by Kingsley) – a sneaky pest exterminator – offers to go in and eradicate the threat himself, in the hope of gaining access to the elite society known as White Hats. However, the missing boy in question is in fact an orphan named Eggs (Hempstead-Wright), who has been living with the the so-called monsters ever since he was two years old and, just like them, he now spends most of his time collecting recycled trash and building various devices and gadgets out of them.
Luckily, Eggs and his faithful buddies are more than capable of staying out of trouble and far away from Archibald’s menacing grip; that is until, Eggs – a boy who is part-human and part-Boxtroll – lays his eyes on beautiful young human girl, Winnie Portley-Rind (Fanning), and instantly falls for her. However, Eggs begins to learn the hard way that his infatuation with her is going to cause him problems.
The latest production to come out of Laika studios – a renowned stop-motion animation company specialising in feature films – is another unique and quirky addition to the company’s filmography. Dark, whimsical and delightfully unconventional, The Boxtrolls sings to its own tune and succeeds in creating an original setting and a story that stays unique to Disney and Pixar. The time and effort that went into creating the world of Cheesebridge – and all of its peculiar, British-speaking residents – is evident.
Led by Game of Thrones’ Hempstead-Wright – better known as Bran Stark of Winterfell – the performances were equally solid and although Eggs could have had a little bit more spring to his step, it was Kingsley – as the deliciously evil exterminator – who steals the show along with Frost, Ayoade and Morgan, who provide the voices for Archibald’s thugs.
The Boxtrolls; it’s by no means groundbreaking, but it is an incredibly fun and unusual watch.
Sinking the already-shaky horror-genre deeper into further oblivion, Ouija – based on a popular spirit-summoning board-game from the 1890’s – is, unfortunately, nothing to get excited about.
Written and directed by Stiles White – along with the penning support of Juliet Snowden – the story is centred on best friends, Laine (Cooke) and Debbie (Henning), who, ever since they were young girls, loved to indulge in a childish and seemingly harmless play using the Ouija board.
Several years later, however, Laine is shocked to learn that Debbie has killed herself and even more surprised to learn that – after visiting her home – that there is evidence of Debbie playing with the Ouija board all by herself; a big no-no in the world of spirits and magic. In order to get to resolve the mystery surrounding her death, Laine calls upon the help of her sister, Sarah (Coto), friend, Trevor, (Kagasoff) and Debbie’s boyfriend, Pete (Smith), to play with the Ouija board and summon Debbie’s spirit.
However, things turn upside down when they accidentally end up summoning an evil spirit who, unlike Debbie, wishes to spread harm upon the group. Now, Laine, who brought everyone into this mess in the first place, needs to find a way to shut the portal - between earth and the life beyond - before it’s too late.
Although the idea of turning a popular board-game into a movie doesn’t sound all that ridiculous and the material seems generally interesting, there just isn’t enough imagination or character in Ouija to make it worthwhile. Lacking depth and character, the film relies a little bit too much on the jump-scare tactic and the lack of suspense and tension only adds to its weak attempt to create a frightening horror experience.
Adding salt to the wound, the characters are just as weak thanks to the poorly-scripted material. Cooke leads the way as the only character of note and the relatively new face won’t have harmed her future prospects. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, simply don’t register and ultimately fail to convey a single genuine emotion.
Ouija is tedious, unimaginative and seemingly uninterested in elaborating and expanding on its own source material.