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The Dream Machine --- The Imagination of the World Wide Web
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Dispatched by his boss to an isolated seaside village to tie up a recently deceased client's affairs, a young London lawyer finds himself in a community grappling with dark secrets and a haunting presence with a sinister agenda. As the film begins, we see one of the clips that was featured in the trailer of the three girls seeing something and following it, as they fall out the window to their deaths. This beginning sets the mood for the feature. After this opening scene, the film takes a while to really pick back up. We learn a little bit of what Arthur Kipps has awaiting him at his home while he's out on this business trip. The final two minutes are the sole reason for showing any of these sequences, which leads to it feeling a bit unnecessary. Even after Kipps arrives at the village, there's a lot of scenes of the townspeople staring at him through their windows and going out of their way to avoid him. The screenplay is a bit repetitive to show us that he's an outsider and everybody has noticed it. Don't expect to be even slightly creeped out until Arthur reaches the house that the entire village fears. Once we reach this house, we're treated to a bunch of jump scares to appeal to the pre-teen crowd. The entire point of jump scares is to take the audience by surprise, not to provide a loud sound and sudden movements at every predictable moment possible. Well, this is exactly what The Woman in Black does. The film continues to transition between Arthur going to the house and back to the village, as he continues to make this trip over and over again. I won't spoil the reason why Arthur is being outcast and what the relation is with the creepy house, but it's exactly what you would guess. This is an average horror story that we've seen millions of times.
Every moviegoer should know who Daniel Radcliffe is. He's been playing the title character in Harry Potter throughout the entire series. This is his first film since being in that franchise. I really wasn't sure what I would think of him in any other role. When actors play a character for so long, it sometimes becomes difficult to see them outside of that character. It has happened countless times in Hollywood, such Linda Blair from The Exorcist. Surprisingly, Radcliffe is fitting as Arthur Kipps and he has easily shed the characteristics of Harry Potter and has proven that he can continue to be cast in different roles. The remainder of the cast is fine, although Radcliffe is the star here. This isn't anything that will warrant any awards, but it's worth noting that he's able to be more than just Harry Potter, and that's saying a lot.
Visually, The Woman in Black has some of what I wanted, but doesn't embrace it quite as much as I was hoping it would. From start to finish, this feature is very gloomy and dark. What I was hoping for was for the house to become a character all its own. This has been accomplished in flicks such as The House of the Devil, upon many others. Unfortunately, this isn't entirely pulled off here. While the house is eerie, it never takes it to the next level. I would have liked to see more of the house with more suspense in the dark and ominous house instead of predictable jump scares. As for the woman in black herself, she's primarily composed of CG work. Given the way that the film was marketed, I was hoping for everything to be practical. She looks a bit too cartoonish for my tastes in quite a few scenes. It takes a lot of the scare-factor out of the film. The Woman in Black could have had some absolutely marvelous visuals to make this house come to life, but it never completely worked. Fortunately, the cinematography is great and the house is creepy in the scenes where things aren't randomly jumping out with loud sounds accompanying them. The sound mixing is a completely different story. The dialogue is centered in the front stage and is never difficult to understand. There's a lot of surround work here, which successfully creates an atmosphere. The bass is tight and deep, so you might want to turn down the audio from your reference level as this is a loud flick.
After all of the successful marketing, The Woman in Black falls for every genre cliché you can possibly think of. The screenplay has a lot of issues and the pacing isn't quite as smooth as I was hoping it would be. It ultimately feels longer than the actual running time, which actually isn't even that long at all. Daniel Radcliffe is surprisingly decent outside of the Harry Potter universe. The biggest disappointment here for me is the way the visuals are utilized. Instead of simply creating tension and making the hair stand up on the back of our necks, there are a lot of jump scares for the pre-teen audiences. If you were hoping for this to return to the days of Hammer horror, you won't find it here. Those expecting great cinematography will find that here though. The Woman in Black isn't bad, but isn't very good either. This is your average PG-13-rated horror feature.