Tuesday, June 5, 2012


London solicitor Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) lost his wife four years earlier during the birth of son Joseph.  Clearly grief has affected his work since his boss sends him to the isolated village of Crythin Gifford to handle the Eel Marsh House estate with the stern admonition that Kipps prove his dedication to the firm by pouring through each document in the house.  He leaves behind son and nanny and trundles via locomotive (it is the early 1900s after all) to regions remote.  En route Kipps meets Daily (Ciaran Hinds), a kindly Crythin Gifford resident who offers him a ride to his lodgings in the pouring rain.  This is the only kindness he receives once in town.  The innkeeper claims to have no rooms available, the town solicitor offers Kipps an unsolicited ride back to the station, and the locals cast wary glances and lock their doors.  This reception does not deter our Mr. Kipps, as he makes his way to the abandoned estate.  His research unearths a tragic history (a son drowned in the marsh) and stirs a vengeful spirit in the form of a woman in black, whose appearance portends the death of village children.  Jane Goldman based her screenplay on the novel by Susan Hill, but the film’s plot and characters feel tissue-paper thin.  The script presents little of Kipps’ history, aside from his widower status, and never offers a plausible reason for him staying overnight in an abandoned estate haunted by a malevolent spirit – except to provide increasingly cheap shocks at regular intervals.  Director James Watkins revels in these atmospheric scares but fails to create a context that resonates beyond superficial shudders.  Rather than having a charismatic actor like the underused Hinds offer insight into local history and superstition, in example, Goldman and Watkins present information in snippets from stale documents with all the drama of a library orientation.  Janet McTeer has some touching moments as Daily’s unstable wife, but the miscast Radcliffe never convinces as a father or lawyer.  He can’t shake the Harry Potter stigma and comes off as a boy wizard playacting the grown up.  Although there are some genuinely creepy moments, they are few and far between.

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