Daniel Radcliffe has well and truly left that zagged Harry Potter scar behind by playing the protagonist Iggy Perrish in the Joe Hill horror fantasy, Horns. The 25 year old English actor has taken another dark step into the world of horror after his first visit in the 2012 film The Woman in Black (Based on a long running West End play of the same name in London.) In both films the young performer who cut his acting teeth in the world of wizards, muggles and Hogwarts, leaves behind his J.K. Rowling character to play more grown up and dark roles.
Taking the Blu-ray’s message to heart, I didn’t watch it alone. I watched it with my daughter and it still scared me. We both watched the stage version of this film and that scared us silly. I was afraid that the film had some pretty big metaphorical shoes to fill. But I needn’t have worried, the film has as good a scare factor as the play.
Directed by James Watkins , this was his second time in the drivers seat (the first time was the exceptional Eden Lake) but you’d never know by watching the film that this was his second time at bat. Daniel Radcliffe does an excellent job of snapping his wand in two and ditching his cape to break away from the Harry Potter universe. I didn’t find my self looking for Hermoine Granger or Ron Weasley once.
The Readers Digest version of the plot is as follows: A Young solicitor (lawyer) loses his wife to childbirth. He mourns her passing so much that he is in danger of losing his job as well. In a bid to help him get back on track, his employer sends him to the north of England to go through a recently deceased widows paperwork to determine if the firm have the most recent will. The young Solicitor (Arthur Kipps) travels to Cryphin Gifford a remote village that is closest to the deceased woman’s house Eel Marsh House. While on the train Arthur meets Sam Daily (Played with quiet conviction by actor Ciarán Hinds) who is from the village and Sam offers Arthur a lift to the local inn.
Arthur’s reception is cool to the point of freezing. No one wants him there and they definitely do not want him to go to Eel Marsh House. In fact the only people in the village who do not snub Arthur are Sam and his wife (Janet McTeer). Mrs Daily is not particularly on the ball. She has never recovered from the loss of their son. Arthur finally gets someone to take him to the mansion.
The film starts with three young girls having a tea party with their dolls. They all stop and look in the same direction. They then wordlessly stand up and go to a triple window. They open the window’s and jump out. We then get to meet Arthur. His wife is giving birth to their son and dies in the process.
The predominant theme in this film is death. It literally seems to ooze from the screen. The cinematography is spot on. The film is set in the Edwardian time period and by gosh it looks authentic. The lighting, the sets and the clothes all help to sell the time period. The lighting was the most crucial factor in helping to make this film scare you. I know my daughter said to me after the third or fourth time that Arthur went into a room without turning on a light, “I keep looking for a light switch!”
The film works on so many different levels. It is of course at its very root a haunted house film, but it is also a good old fashioned ghost story; it’s also a film with the theme of the curse, and last but certainly not least, it’s about an outsider bringing ruin to the village he enters. The film was creepy and scary and, at times, sad.
I am very glad the we did not see this at the cinema, I think I would have had to go home and put a dry pair of trousers on at least three times during the film.
If you look up Hammer Film Production on Wikipedia it will tell you that the company was founded in 1934. Wikipedia also give a list of some of the ‘landmark’ films that Hammer have produced over a long period of time. Wikipedia also states that the company did some re-imaging in the 70’s. Hammer also spent most of the 80’s doing television. The 90’s were spent doing documentaries.
Hammer then went quiet until their recent re-birth with the production of the 2008 on-line serial Beyond the Rave. A fairly inauspicious re-birth, but it was still a rise from the proverbial ashes. Beyond the Rave was about vampires who held illegal raves to lure new victims in. Made with a budget of £500,000 the final episode of the serial wasn’t even aired on-line. After a two year wait a limited amount of DVD’s were produced in both PAL and NTSC formats.
Then in 2010 Hammer produced the re-make of the Swedish horror film Let the Right One In. The re-make was re-titled Let Me In it had Chloë Grace Moretz who was a hot property after her portrayal of Hit Girl in Kick-Ass. It was very good as re-makes go and it was nice to see the Hammer name associated with a better than average horror film, even if it was a re-make.
2011 saw The Resident with Hilary Swank as the main protagonist. The film was a straight to DVD release although it was given a limited cinema release in the UK, The Netherlands, Spain, Greece and Brazil. The chiller was got mixed reviews from critics ranging from two stars to four. Not really setting the world on fire, but Hammer had at least gotten off the re-make train.
2011 also saw the release of Wake Wood a Irish-Hammer co-production. Wake Wood was a modern Gothic tale set in Ireland. In essence it was Pet Semetary without the device of animals being brought back to life. Actor Timothy Spall was the local vet who could bring back the dead for a limited time only. The film had a satisfying sting in it’s tail and put another notch on Hammers camera.
2012 aka the present, Hammer has produced but not released the thriller Winchester Mystery House. But more impressively Hammer has produced the film The Woman in Black starring Harry Potter himself Daniel Radcliffe. The film is based on the novel written by Susan Hill and not the West End play of the same name.
The Woman in Black has hit Gothic gold for Hammer. The box office for the opening weekend of the film was Twenty million dollars, the most any Hammer film has pulled in for a US opening. This is no doubt the main reason that Hammer has scheduled a sequel for the film. Critical response has been mainly good. As of June this year the film has made over $127 million world wide and has the distinction of being the highest grossing British Horror film of all time.
I haven’t seen The Woman in Black yet, but I am going to rush down to the rental place as soon as possible to rent it. My daughter and I both watched the stage version in the West End and it scared the crap out of us. As best as I can remember the stage play was based on the novel as well.
If the film is only half as scary as the play, it will be worth watching.