You are left with mixed feelings when end credits start rolling for 'The Woman In Black'. While the final sequence of the film does manage to bring it to a satisfying end, there are series of sequences just before that which are not just long drawn but also plain predictable and worse, repetitive. Now that's not really a good sign for a film which started off quite well, picked steam in a while and then became ultra impressive in the middle portion. However once the mystery started solving itself, 'The Woman In Black' couldn't quite hold on to the momentum till the epilogue saved it from being a total crash.
Daniel Radcliffe, who has now clearly moved on from the 'Harry Potter' franchise, moves ahead in his film career with 'The Woman In Black' where he plays the role of a widower and a father. As a lawyer who is bullied by his employer and has to settle the legal affairs in a village that is quite far away from his hometown London, he finds himself entangled in a mystery that ends up having it's own bearings him on. While the village doesn't really give him any good vibes from the very beginning, haunted nature of the mansion where all the secrets reside further causes greater disturbance in his short stint there.
Now it is this basic setting of the film that lends it a mysterious and suspenseful touch as second time director James Watkins manages to take you along in Daniel's journey. A dark and rainy season coupled with a gloomy look and feel of the village, dying children, unhelpful villagers and shady visions of spirits in and around the mansion do succeed in hooking you to the proceedings on screen. Yes, the going-on is indeed predictable and formulaic but you do join in as you bargained for this affair.
However how one wishes that Watkins could have got rid of clichÃ©s and brought an element of newness in his story telling technique. Whether it is the motifs (toys of the child who had died) or the situations (a shadowy figure making an appearance all around Daniel), none of it really manages to surprise. Yes, it does shock and even scare you at places but that is more due to the instant hit that one gets due to coming together of sound, camerawork and visuals than the originality of affairs. Not just that as the sound made by windows, doors, arm chairs or other such routine tools is repeated in dozens as well.
Still, one is hooked on to the affairs as long as Watkins keeps the cards close to his chest when it comes to the suspense element. You do wish to know why there are children dying in the village, what really was the curse that the woman in black had put on the villagers, what was the connection with Daniel's life and if the people helping him (Ciaran Hinds) were indeed his friends or adversaries. You are sucked into the core plot of the film and as letters as well as writing on the wall (well, literally) do start dropping hints about the real cause of all the mayhem; you do acknowledge the storyline here.
However the movie starts going downhill once Daniel takes it upon him to relieve the spirit of it's troubles. This means that right from the time he decides to swamp to the setting at home where he brings together all the motifs to the incidents that happen, the film just ends up taking a conventional route, hence robbing a viewer of an exciting and thrilling journey that he could have taken. Also, the horror element here seems rather forced and also kills the subtle mood that 'The Woman In Black' had taken so far. Frankly, it's the excess use of chilling sound and visuals that prevents it from being in the same mode (if not the league) as 'The Sixth Sense'.
As stated earlier though, it's the climax sequence that still makes up for the disinterest that had set in during the 15-20 minutes before that. In fact the culmination of the film is also apt for a storyline like this, hence preventing it from being an out and out predictable and escapist affair. This means that though 'The Woman In Black' is hardly one of the more innovative thrilling/horror affairs from the West, it can still be given a decent watch due to it's basic plot as well as Daniel's real performance that thankfully never goes over the top.