This is almost like Hogwarts all over again

Presumably there will come a point in Daniel Radcliffe's film career when his appearance on the screen will not immediately and overwhelmingly summon up thoughts of the boy wizard.

The Woman in Black, a curiously old-fashioned ghost story, will do nothing to remake Radcliffe's image as Harry Potter. In fact, there are several points in this Gothic boot-dragger when you wish he would simply wave a wand at the malevolent (but not all that menacing) spirit who keeps popping up.

Radcliffe plays Arthur Kipps, a London solicitor in Victorian times who is still distraught over the loss of his wife during childbirth four years prior.

Kipps is sent to a very remote village to sort through the tangled estate of a recently deceased widow. The townsfolk don't take kindly to the outsider. Not one bit.

But Kipps insists on going out to spooky old inaccessible Eel Marsh House by himself, on nosing around the deserted cobwebbed manor and grave-riddled grounds, and even on spending the night there.

Given that set of circumstances, you'd make the same choices. Am I right?

The Woman in Black has lovely period atmosphere. Unfortunately, it doesn't have much else besides atmosphere. It trades in a number of fright semaphores - crows, fog, pale faces seen in high windows - without ever really getting scary. In fact, it never nudges the needle much past creepy.

There are, however, several instances of fake suspense, in which Radcliffe will approach a door with trepidation, the music swelling, and throw it open to find . . . nothing.

This was a strange choice for Radcliffe as his first post-Potter project. First, it's dull, and offers little in the way of acting tinder. He spends almost the entire film looking soulful and distracted, as if he's posing for a portrait.

Second, intentionally or not, this very British period piece places him surprisingly close to Hogwarts territory. Get out and experience the world, kid.

The real problem with The Woman in Black is that it contains only one rather small plot twist. And this is a movie that could have used bushels.

Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552,, or @daveondemand_tv on Twitter. Read his blog, "Dave on Demand," at

The Woman in Black

Directed by James Watkins. With Aoife Doherty, Mary Stockley, Janet McTeer, Daniel Radcliffe, Shaun Dooley, Sidney Johnston, Alisa Khazanova, David Burke, Alexia Osborne, Ciaran Hinds. Distributed by CBS Films.

Running time: 1 hours, 35 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for thematic material and violence/disturbing images).