Less ghostly than ghastly

DANIEL RADCLIFFE (Arthur Kipps) in THE WOMAN IN BLACK. IN CINEMAS 10 FEB 2012
DANIEL RADCLIFFE (Arthur Kipps) in THE WOMAN IN BLACK. IN CINEMAS 10 FEB 2012
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WHETHER or not young Daniel Radcliffe has the longevity, talent or the chops to survive beyond Harry Potter remains to be seen.

But now the wizard franchise is dead and gone, the actor has taken a fantasy sidestep and wandered down the path of horror into a screen adaptation of Susan Hill’s gothic novella, The Woman in Black.

The West End hit has been striking fear in the hearts of theatre-goers for some 20 years and while director James Watkins may not stage as many seat-clearing moments as the play, he invests in enough creaky rocking chair moments to startle the faint-hearted.

But – and this is something that’s plagued many a child actor – it’s a struggle to accept Radcliffe as a widowed ghost-hunter when all we’ve known him for is his long-standing role as a spell-casting kid in silly glasses.

It’s not the cobwebs, draughty doors and the haunted house on the hill that cause the film to fall a bit flat nor is it the Royston Vasey-eque village with its unwelcoming Yorkshire folk.

No, these all add to the film’s occasionally hair-raising charm and there are moments where clinging to the arm of the seat is the only thing for it (there’s nothing creepier than toys coming to life).

It’s Radcliffe who raises the bar for achieving new levels of blank, by reacting to countless ‘look-behind-you’ moments with the sort of frozen mask of fear a teenage am-dram performer might assume as the curtain rises on opening night.

The part of Arthur Kipps requires a star who looks as if he is being tormented to death, not someone who looks like he suffers from a mild nervous condition.

And while Radcliffe is saddled with a boring character who does little more than creep around clutching a candle, reacting with clammy unease doesn’t quite cut it.

One thing’s for sure, if I were being tormented by a sceptre with serious closure issues, I wouldn’t be calling Mr Kipps to bust her out of town, I’d begrudgingly be speed dialling Harry P, who probably would have whipped up some sort of extermination potion in his lunch hour.

It’s just a shame for Radcliffe that he no longer possesses his ever-useful wand. Or should I say, crutch?