THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
JANUARY 12, 2015
“The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death” lives and dies by jump scares. Void of any real horror innovations or standout performances, the tension is built through atmospheric suspense, relying on dark corners and moving shadows to do all the heavy lifting.
Revisiting the daunting Eel Marsh House from the original, this time we’re thrown into WWII as a group of children and their caretakers use the mansion as shelter from the bomb Blitz in London. Once again, the Woman in Black makes her presence felt by revealing herself to a mute orphan boy named Edward who’s being picked on.
Actress Phoebe Fox steps into her first theatrical leading role as one of the children’s caretakers, Eve Parkins. Despite coming off completely pleasant and comfortable in the performance, her inability to hit certain emotional marks leaves her performance rather one-sided. Every scare and storyline in the film feels as dusty and weather-worn as the house itself. Checking under beds, chasing ghosts that no one else sees, questioning unlocked doors that are supposed to be locked; all of these plainly show how unwilling new horror is willing to adapt and evolve.
Even the deaths of the children this time around are brushed over. Whereas in the original, children were killing themselves with lye, oil lamps, and simultaneously jumping out windows, in the sequel, they are merely found dead in the morning or found choking or asphyxiating themselves. As if marking off boxes on a horror 101 checklist, Eve is not sleeping well due to nightmares, is called crazy when she says she’s seen someone in the cemetery and is threatened to leave by one of the villagers.
What the film does get points for, however, is set design, which did not take much, seeing as the majority of it was established in the original. With the return of the creepy dolls and monkey figures, as well as the house itself, surrounded by the rising tide marshes and the single crossed grave marker in the water, this feels like an appropriate revisiting of said set pieces, reminding of the focal points in the Radcliffe version.
By the time “The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death” reaches its conclusion, it becomes painfully clear that little thought was put into the writing. The characters are one-dimensional and paper thin, the twists are laughable, and the climax is not only telegraphed but poorly executed. Another problem exists within the existence of the Woman in Black in general. Decent haunting films most often provide a possible solution to the tainted spirit, giving the protagonist a shot at turning the tables and ridding the haunted place of the spirit.
Even in the original, Radcliffe’s character sought out a solution, by seeking out the Woman in Black’s dead son whose body was never recovered. Instead of having that driving force, the sequel takes on the role of simple damage control, but against an unstoppable force, trying to keep the characters alive is simply not entertaining enough. The meat and bones of the story would be figuring out a solution and trying to carry it out. Instead, it basically falls into slasher film territory, except with no blood and gore and the Woman in Black filling in for Jason or Freddy.
“The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death” botches the horror possibilities of a film set during WWII, remaining a predictable and forgettable sequel, ultimately illuminates that Hammer Films is not ready to step out of their comfort zone.
January 2, 2015
Susan Hill (story)
(for some disturbing and frightening images, and for thematic elements)