Some reviewers have noted that this does not exactly represent a huge step forward for young Daniel Radcliffe in his post-Potter future career, and indeed cinema-goers are likely to be beset by an eery deja-vue: he gets on a big noisy steam-train, he arrives at a big dark creepy house, very weird scary things happen to him, he looks extremely stressed, he feels compelled to save people even at great personal risk, and the climax of the whole thing takes place at a railway station. I won't give away the end, which departs in a pleasingly Potteresque fashion from the original novel and the much-admired stage play. The film is beautifully done, with stunning period detail (why is it that Victorian clockwork toys are so terrifyingly creepy?). It ticks all the boxes of its genre and even though you know what's coming it is still genuinely scary (it's a 12A but I wouldn't take anyone younger than 10 to see it) - even the chattering, giggling, pop-corn munching sceptics I saw it with were cowed into respectful silence punctuated by uncontrollable gasps and squeaks of fright. A must-see gothic treat.
The Brits have always been very good with haunted house stories and this film is no exception. It also has a Hammer style to it and no surprise, as it's produced by Hammer - world famous for their gothic style. One indeed would not be that surprised to see Christopher Lee walking in that scary house or Peter Cushing appearing, wooden crucifix in hand, about to kill a vampire. But this is not a film about vampires - it is a film about ghosts and a haunted place. A young lawyer is sent to work on the estate of a certain Alice Drablow. He decides to go to her house to read the papers but he is soon interrupted in his work by noises coming from upstairs and he starts seeing things - or rather someone: a woman in black.
I think quite a few people in this island have a lot of tenderness for Daniel Radcliffe; we have seen him as a child, as a teenager and now a young man. He is the British equivalent of Jean-Pierre Léaud, the Antoine Doinel of the François Truffaut series. He does not disappoint in this role and is very convincing as a young widower doing his best to save his job. Ciarán Hinds, also familiar from Harry Potter, plays a local landlord favourable to him. Janet McTeer plays his wife. Overall, a great cast and a great evening spent at the cinema.