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Ten Word or Less Review: Harry Potter and the Haunted House

Reborn British film production company Hammer looks to be raiding its vaults for inspiration instead of outright thievery.  The Woman in Black harkens back to Hammer’s glory days of the 1960’s without being a straight up remake of any film in particular.  All the staples and turns of the haunted house movie are present and checked for with little to no deviation, but that isn’t to say it isn’t a crackling good spook flick of high quality and creepy demeanor.  Black is totally conventional in just about every way people know these movies to be, but an enjoyable and atmospheric horror film all the same.

Daniel Radcliffe stars as a guy who isn’t Harry Potter.  His name eludes me because once you’ve played the most important fictional character of an entire generation for a decade straight, your character’s name is completely pointless.  You’re Harry Potter.  So Mr. Potter is a near destitute lawyer with a young son and who pines for his deceased wife who died in childbirth.  With his job on the line he’s sent to a small village to sort out the affairs of a large, mysterious estate in a foggy little village.  It’s the type of village where everyone basically says ‘Get the Hell out of this village!’ with every crooked look and gesture.  Mr. Potter, being a bit oblivious to their not so subtle warnings, stays on to visit the big spooky mansion in question so he can go through paperwork.  There all of 5 minutes the creepy begins to crawl out of every squeaky door and shadow.  Anything with a reflective surface is an instrument of terror.  The plot is simple, the scenario routine, but the all around effort so well executed that viewers shouldn’t begrudge the filmmakers for not leaving the comfort zones of movies like this.

Daniel Radcliffe makes a fine lead for a distinctly British effort such as this.  The man who will forever be Potter looks to be attempting to establish himself as an actor away from the Potterverse but Black feels not too removed from the tropes of a Potter yarn.  A lead character who takes a train ride to get to a big spooky castle full of paintings and ghosts?  It all sounds a bit familiar.  One can see this as a baby step away from Radcliff’s wheelhouse and as such he acquits himself quite well as ghost story fodder.  He’s ably backed by a supporting cast which includes Cirian Hines, Janet McTeer and that spooky woman in the black dress who knows how to perfectly time her appearances in mirrors and windows.

The Woman in Black is 90 minutes of dread and anxiety that should tense up susceptible viewers, even though they know exactly what’s behind each door and every shadow.  It may break no barriers or take no turn the audience can’t see, but a good time it is and it’s old fashioned qualities are to be admired.


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