Movie review in the Friday, Feb. 3 Oregonian....
"The Woman in Black" is a slow-burn haunted-house thriller co-produced by the recently resurrected Hammer Films -- the storied company responsible for so many classic horror melodramas starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. The new film honors the Hammer name when it embraces a sort of high-toned, old-studio Englishness. It's at its worst when it goes for the cheap manipulative noisy scare.
The story (which debuted as a 1983 novel and has since enjoyed variations as a 1989 TV movie and long-running West End play) is a period piece about a young widower lawyer (Daniel Radcliffe) who travels to a gloomy coastal town to settle an estate, only to get caught up in the village mystery -- which involves the titular spectre, an abandoned manse no one wants to visit, and an alarming rash of child suicides.
Director James Watkins ("Eden Lake") excels at the gloomy, patient setup -- the trudges through fog and slate-grey environments, the study of every architectural detail, the grim British propriety in the face of unexplainable dread, Radcliffe's stately depression. But to my thinking, this splendid low-key bummer of a ghost story was eventually undermined by the film's increasing reliance on shock-scares, in which something suddenly and noisily jumps into the frame, over and over and over. These jump-scares might not be so bad if they weren't also invariably accompanied by shrieks of Marco Beltrami-composed music that begin sounding more and more like desperate exclamation points as the movie goes on. By film's end, I was less entranced by the atmospherics and more wondering if Pavlov's dogs ever got resentful.
(95 min., rated PG-13) Grade: C
'The Woman in Black' (The Oregonian, Friday, Feb. 3, 2012)