The Woman In Black

The Woman In Black

James Watkins caught everyone’s attention back in 2008 when he directed the horror/thriller movie Eden Lake.

Now four years later he is back with his latest offering The Woman In Black - and while he stays in the horror genre this movie sees Watkins offer something completely different.

The filmmaker has gone with the good old less is more approach where he offers some really genuine scares throughout the film without the in your face guts and gore that we have become so use to seeing in this genre of film.

This time around Watkins has not penned the script, that was the task of Jane Goldman, and he admits that it was Goldman’s adaptation of the Susan Hill novel that really drew him to the project as he believed it offered him a challenge as a director.

“It was really Jane Goldman’s screenplay I thought it was a very good screenplay and a very scary film but I also thought that it had something about it. It had some heart; it was about loss and about this guy’s journey”, says Watkins

“I also thought it was interesting to try and make a movie that could scare people but without using any gore or violence, not that I have got a problem with any of that, but there are a lot of movies that claim to be scary but they are just nasty - again I don’t mind nasty but it’s not necessarily scary.

He continued, “So I thought that we could make a film that was actually scary and by playing on the imagination more and going in a more of an old school direction; it’s a ghost story so it’s about what you can’t see, what’s in the shadows and the edges of the frame. So I thought that that was an interesting challenge.”

But Watkins admits that when you go for the less is more approach in a movie it’s always hard to know where that is really working when you are filming.

And he says that you just have to show to a whole host of different audiences to gage their reaction - even if that means having to take on board their criticism.

“Yes it is really difficult to know. You have to put it in front of an audience again and again and again and that’s never a nice thing when you are in the process of editing because you are showing the film before it’s finished. So you take a few hits but it is a necessary pain,” the director explains.

“Sometimes you have to do it on the quiet because you don’t want the producers and all the money guys hearing all the bad things that people have to say.

“It was interesting because however less is more we thought it should be the film was always saying take it back a bit more; lower the music, make it more in the sound design with his breathing and his footsteps, so it’s quite held back this movie it’s quite stripped back and spare.”

The movie sees Daniel Radcliffe lead the cast in what is his first post Potter movie, and a real departure to the roles and performances that he has taken on and delivered in the past.

Watkins reveals that he had Radcliffe were both on the same page about The Woman In Black from the very start, the director admitting that he had no desire to make the movie in 3D despite some early suggestions.

And Watkins admits that he was keen to challenge Radcliffe right from the very beginning, something that the actor was very keen on.

“He just understood what I was trying to achieve and he talked about the character in a very smart way, Dan in person is not what you imagine; and he is not Harry Potter either. He is a very considered guy and he is very committed and wants to challenge himself and try new things,” says Watkins

“I said to him ‘I am going to challenge you’ and he embraced that as he went and met with grief councillors and read lots of books on grief and really threw himself into his prep and research for the role. I think he really carries the movie.”

And after working so closely with Radcliffe it is clear that Watkins has nothing but praise for the young actor and believes that he has a long career ahead of him.

“I am really proud of what he has done because I think that he has shown a different side of himself as an actor. I think he is in a different register compared to other thing that he has done,” explains Watkins.

He continues, “I think he holds the film really well, there is a twenty five minute section in the middle of the film where it is just Dan in the house; there is no dialogue and he has to carry it all with his expressions and how he responds through the house.

“That is such a huge challenge as an actor and he doesn’t have other actors to bounce off, which always makes it easier. He is only twenty three and it has a long career ahead of him - hopefully this is one step on that career.”

Radcliffe takes on the role of Arthur in the movie, a widower who leaves behind his young son to travel to Eel Marsh House to conclude the affairs of the recently deceased Mrs Drablow.

And Watkins reveals that his aim with this movie was to give the character of Arthur a real story and journey, even if that does differ slightly from the book.

“I wanted to give Arthur a real journey as a character and a real sense of loss and a sense that he is searching for something; he is a guy who is really not functioning properly he isn’t there for his son as he is just drowned in grief and chasing shadows”, explains the director.

“So in that sense the journey that he is after is to be reunited with his wife and that why he gets that sort of bitter sweet ending. We didn’t pursue it in the context of this is like the play or whatever we went back to the source book - we wanted to do it in the spirit of the book and do justice to it but make it film shaped.

“I think the most gratifying thing for Jane and I was that Susan Hill saw the film and really gave us a big thumbs up so that was a really big moment for us.”

The Woman In Black is the latest movie project to come under the Hammer horror banner - and they have had quite a resurgence in the last couple of years.

But The Woman In Black has already proved to be a huge hit as it enjoyed the biggest opening of all time for a Hammer Horror movie when it opened in America last week.

The movie took $21 million in the first weekend of release in the States and was the second highest new entry on the box office chart at number two.

And while Hammer does have an illustrious movie history Watkins reveals that he didn’t think too much about the films that had been made over the years.

“It’s a funny thing Hammer because they made some great movies in the fifties and sixties and some pretty crappy movies in the seventies, so you aspire to be one of the good ones and not one of the bad ones. I didn’t really worry about it too much I just wanted to tell the story in its own way,” says Watkins.

The Woman In Black looks set to be a huge hit when it is released in the UK later this week, further establishing both Watkins and Radcliffe as talent to keep an eye on.

And while the director admits that he has nothing concrete in the pipeline just yet he is looking at a series of other movie projects.

“The truth is I don’t really know but I have three of four potential projects that might happen. But there are never any guarantees because you have got to persuade someone to give you a lot of money and they don’t do that very easily,” says Watkins.

He continues, “Hopefully I will get another film off the ground by the end of the year but I can’t guarantee any of it really.”

The Woman In Black is released 10th February

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw


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