A DESERTED, old mansion on a small island is connected by a causeway submerged at high tide to a bleak, decrepit village on the mainland where visitors are actively turned away.
A young widowed lawyer with a four-year-old son is sent to settle the estate of the elderly widow who owned the mansion and there is a letter from a distraught woman swearing that her son will always be hers despite having been adopted.
Those are the basic elements underlying this second filming of Susan Hill’s Gothic ghost story set in the early 20th century.
Daniel Radcliffe, playing lawyer Kipps, has the main burden of the drama, investigating in the deserted old house, pondering the locals’ rejection of him, slowly building up our awareness of the reason for there being no children in the village, wondering about the black-clad veiled woman who appears in the house and its garden.
The film moves very slowly, interspersed with a small collection of cinematic frighteners that, while we may not see them coming, are familiar from other ghost stories.
Ciaran Hinds plays the only village resident who befriends Kipps. Janet McTeer plays his wife who sublimates her maternal grief by treating her two chihuahuas like children. Their only son lies in a mausoleum in the grounds of their property outside the village.
Of its kind, the film has some merit. But its tensions are loose and its scary moments aren’t.
At Hoyts, Dendy and Limelight