The reason that it's important to see films in theaters full of people is because those huge moving pictures are meant to be a shared experience. Seeing a film on your TV alone in your jammies creates an entirely different reaction than sitting alert in a seat at midnight, smack in the middle of a room full of people jumping out of their skin with excitement at what's to come. This kind of palpable energy is exactly what made my screening of The Woman in Black more fun than I've had in a long time. Of course it's based on a tried-and-true novel and long-running stage play, so the foundation was all there to begin with. But seeing it in a theater filled with Harry Potter fans aching to get their Daniel Radcliffe fix, with a killer sound system and popcorn to fling on your neighbor, is what makes it really work.
At first I assumed that the film was PG-13 to allow HP fans to get into the screening without their parents. And although that might be true, they are all going to have a hard time sleeping after naively wandering into this film. I'm an adult (or at least that's what my driver's license says), and I would like to officially thank the gentleman sitting to the right of me who allowed me to use his arm as both a scratching post and a scream muffler. I mean, British people have told me how disturbing the play is, but nothing could prepare me. Once you get past the cheap scares in the beginning, the movie becomes what is sure to be a bastion of pride in Hammer films' haunted house collection, a'la The House That Dripped Blood. It probably cost more than all of those films combined, too, and it shows in every cobweb and creepy antique wind-up toy.
Arthur Kipps (Radcliffe) shows up to a small village to collect the last will and testament of some old dead lady. When he gets there, the townspeople are more than eager to usher him out immediately. Since they act crazier than all of the casts of Bravo's reality shows combined (with Albert Nobbs Janet McTeer really taking the cake), he doesn't pay much attention. He realizes too late that they're right to be scared, and that the woman who has died is a furious ghost who has a knack for killing children. Yes, you read that right. This movie pulls no punches in what is traditionally a taboo act in films, and our audience could not get a hold of themselves. If you've seen the television ads of movie-goers freaking out (that Paranormal Activity made so popular), they actually seem like they could have been filmed in my screening. Tweens get more freaked out than horses led to a glue factory, and this film gives them ample opportunities to completely lose their minds. It made it more fun for me, and more difficult to critique the film outside of my experience. Is it a perfect movie? Nah, but as a horror fan, I felt satisfied.
There's an enormous amount of pressure on all of the main characters of the movie that must not be named (again) to see if they will have any kind of success outside of their iconic roles in the globally beloved series. Radcliffe was great in this, just like Emma Watson was perfectly suitable as a small role in My Week with Marilyn. I think these kids are going to be just fine in their post-Gryffindor days. Since Valentine's Day is fast approaching, you should show Harry Potter some love.