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THE WOMAN IN BLACK

 

For anyone who has spent any decent amount of time in London, you are well aware of the stage play The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre. There, for 29.90 you can see the original Stephen Mallatratt play adapted from the Susan Hill novel. It is the second longest run production on London's West End theatre district.

 

On stage it is by far the creepiest story ever told. In 1989, Herbert Wise adapted the play to a television movie and it too was well received. It too also was very creepy.

 

Fast forward to the present and we find an adult Daniel Radcliffe having completed 10 years as Harry Potter, now eagerly moving forward in his career. He is also eager to shed the stigma that he will only be remembered as Potter. Truly, his one other endeavor "December Boys" hardly caused a stir and to many, his character resembled the virgin Potter too closely.

There is nothing quit like a good old fashioned ghost story to stir things up. Whoever Radcliffe's handlers are, they are advising him properly as he has been successfully cast in the exceptional silver screen adaptation of "The Woman in Black", a role that is both a departure from harry Potter but also parallels the character.

 

The film open with three children committing what seems to be a simultaneous suicide - hurling themselves out of a window.

 

We next find Radcliffe's character Arthur Kipps as a widowed solicitor (British lawyer) with a young child and a career that is languishing. Desperate for work he agrees to travel to the small town of Crythin Gifford to oversee the estate of a recently deceased recluse named Mrs. Drablow. Mrs. Drablow lived in a creepy old house called the Eel Marsh House. A home so dreadful, that the only access is by a road that is constantly under the tide.

 

All Kipps needs to do is go to the home, find whatever estate papers she left, execute the papers, and resolve the estate. However, things are not quite as easy as they seem... especially in a ghost story.

Kipps soon learns there was more to Mrs. Drablow than just being a creepy old lady. Moreover, the town knows. Specifically, a Mr Daily (Ciaran Hinds) who is the only other person in the town of means who is actually the one to summon Kipps.

 

Through Kipp's brief investigation he learns that there is a spectre - the ghost of a woman in all black - who, upon her presence, children die.

 

Now, upon learning of the ghost, Kipps decides to try to solve the mystery and find out who she is relative to the Eels Marsh House and Mrs. Drablow. This is when the film becomes more harrowing.

 

This is when we realize how carefully Radcliffe's handlers are managing his career, or would that be his next career.

As he was in the Harry Potter series, Radcliffe has been surrounded by brilliant talent. Aside from Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer who is currently a best Supporting actress nominee in the Oscars for her role in Albert Nobbs - is Mrs Daily. It is a small but significant role. Also David Burke, the veteran actor is cast as PC Collins, another small but significant role that provides momentous highlights so that all the spotlight isn't on Radcliffe.

 

Director James Watkins - whose previous work included "Eden Lake" take a well cast ensemble and creates a the perfect vehicle for Radcliffe to begin to shed his Harry Potter persona.

 

"The Woman in Black" is a genuine spine-tingler of a ghost story with an actor willing to through himself into the story convincingly making you forget that he was the guy who face down Lord Voldemort!   -- RILEY MOORE [Riley Moore is a CinemaTrek film critic based in Manchester, England]

 

 

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