If this movie had a school report it would say “doing well, but could do better”. There is nothing wrong with this movie, per se, other than it just does not fully live up to its potential. The director, James Watkins (Eden Lake, 2008, personally a disappointing film) works well to create a sense of atmosphere and overall the movie works visually.
The opening credits show Hammer’s involvement and all of us above a certain age will remember the almost kitsch productions, which, despite the advances of time still stand as cult classics. Was TWIB a victim of this expectation? I don’t think so. There was much to the sense of expectation and by-and-large the movie meets the requirement in that it does manage suspense, even if it is well sign-posted by Beltrami’s score. The greatest weakness might have been Jane Goldman’s actual screenplay based on Susan Hill’s original novel.
Our young hero is a grieving young lawyer who is still missing his wife (and mother of his four year old son) and is struggling to keep his job and life together. He is sent by his employer to this out of the way location to work om substantial paper-work from the deceased’s estate to redeem his status and keep his job. Watching this I could not but remember a certain other story by a Mr B. Stoker (think fangs and mirrors) with his hero being a young lawyer sent to dark corners of Europe.
Our hero soon learns of what has been happening to the children of the village and the part his dead client’s family have played in this. His time alone in the house allows him to piece together the history and to try to bring closure to the suffering.
All of the central characters and clichés expected in a thriller/horror/ghost story are all present. The scenery is dark, damp and gloomy with the aptly eerie home of the deceased widow out on its own away from the local village. Rather than being up the side of a cliff in a dark valley, it is on its own island on the coast where it is only accessible during the low tides. We see the locals banding together against the new blow-in (queue the “Mob”) only for the local squire (Ciarán hinds) to have to stand up to them. The scenery is reminiscent of something you would expect in Hounds of the Baskervilles. Ms Shelly would have liked the Gothic sense there is to the film.
Originality aside, the movie progresses well and the cast do their best with what is on offer. To Mr Radcliffe’s credit he has moved out of his Harry Potter persona. The screenplay works to hold back the movie from losing control of itself. If you liked Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009) then you should like this. If you like the old fashioned ghost story which makes you jump with fright rather than recoil in horror (at the piles of body parts), then you should enjoy it.
Rating a steady 5/10 unlike some others it did not send me to sleep and it kept its sense of perspective but some additional sense of drama and originality would have helped raise this film to a greater level.