Books that become plays that become films - the transition between each format can dilute the impact or leave fans of one source less than impressed with the other interpretations. Now the play that has run for 23 years from the 29 year old novel gets its cinematic debut with that "wizard boy" leaving Hogwarts firmly behind for pastures new... and chilling.
Director Watkins previously showed that unsettling is something easily achievable with his Eden Lake (showing the US a thing or two regarding how to depict deranged youths) but here, with the added benefits of a solid story and yet another wonderfully adapted screenplay from Goldman, he has reached new heights. The much-missed, good old-fashioned horror story is back, and better than ever.
Fans of the play will immediately note the bold decisions made by Goldman (surely a go-to-gal for Hollywood after her Kick-Ass, X-Men First Class, Stardust efforts) regarding Radcliffe's young solicitor who has been changed from a happy husband and father to a widower whose son even draws him with unhappy faces on his artwork. This move makes Radcliffe's actions more understandable as he wonders about his dead wife and if there is something on the other side rather than have the audience just think "well I'd run away and NOT go into the room where all those noises are coming from."
Where things work extremely well is the constant, under-lying tension created by every character upon the screen along with the superbly shot locations that only add to the creepy atmosphere. This nervousness sets the audience on edge throughout, so much so that even the very few obvious "jump" scares that are presented are highly effective despite you knowing that they're coming. However, it's the ones that you don't see coming or the ones deliberately avoided that truly make this a masterclass of nail-biting entertainment. Whether it's during the day or night, Radcliffe and the viewer are under constant surveillance and threat from mostly unseen forces, allowing the imagination to run riot regarding the titular vengeful spirit.
When she does appear though it doesn't quite match up to the horrific images that you've already conjured up but with the likes of the creepiest collection of children's toys ever filmed and the BEST reflection scare committed to celluloid, it can be forgiven as only a slight niggle that hardly gets a look-in through your shredded nerves. You even mostly ignore the too-youthful-looking Radcliffe but that's down to his great performance as well as the hand-squeezing tension.
Better than ALL the horror-slasher stories of the past few years out together, this is a lady you should see....through clammy, shaky fingers!
UK release date: 10.02.12