What it's about:
As bombs rain down on London during the Blitz of World War II, a group of school children is evacuated with Eve, their young and beautiful schoolteacher, to the safety of the English countryside. Taken to an old and empty estate, cut off by a causeway from the mainland, they are left at Eel Marsh House.One by one, the children begin acting strangely, and Eve, with the help of local military commander Harry, discovers that the group has awoken a dark force even more terrifying and evil than the city’s air raids. Eve must now confront her own demons to save the children and escape the wrath of The Woman in Black.
What we thought:
It’s been three years since the first Woman in Black had a hot-off-Harry-Potter Daniel Radcliffe trying out the role of grieving father. This time Angel of Death takes place many years after, during WWII when children were evacuated to the countryside. And lo and behold, some idiot decides to put kids up in an abandoned mansion, haunted by our not-so-friendly ghost.
The ghost seems to fixate on the schoolteacher accompanying the kids and a young boy whose parents were recently killed in the Blitz. As expected children start dying by their own hand and the teacher, with the help of a young handsome pilot, try to investigate why.
Sequels to horrors are almost always quite terrible, milking off a concept that appeared to be a hit. I think one of the big problems with sequels to ghost stories is that the whole appeal is to find out the origin story of the malevolent spirit, and try to use it to quell its passions. All this is already established in the first film and with The Woman in Black we already know there is no reasoning with her twisted grieving. I always love a good ghost story in a period setting as it takes away our modern technology in the hunting process, but when you already know the motives of the ghost, you lose your interest in the motives of the living.
Not to say that cinematically the film’s production design and composition was beautifully eerie – more like artwork than a film. The editor also did a good job and although the plot was thin, they made up for it by making something beautiful to look at. (Jeremy Irvine’s face also helped with the scenery.)
As for the scary part, it relies solely on jump-scares to get your heart going. A good jump-scare here and there is fine, but when it’s the only thing driving your film it loses its effect after the hundredth one. I love horrors but have the nerves of a baby kitten, and if you’re like me the film will keep you on your toes, but for the more hardened horror fan the film’s scare tactics will be predictable and a bore, barring a few good ones here and there. Not even remotely close to the clapping hands of The Conjuring though, which is now my marker for any modern horror films.
Mostly seen in TV movies, Phoebe Fox as the maternal teacher is a good-enough actress and her character at least had the sense to try and get the children away from the house, making her less annoying than your typical scream queen. I was less sold on the boy who the Woman in Black becomes obsessed with. Although grieving for his parents, he was such a hollow character and had everything happen to him without any agency.
Oaklee Pendergast who plays him was also underwhelming, being upstaged by all the other children actors. And then there was the dashing, but tormented young pilot played by Irvine (War Horse), who is pretty to look at, has decent acting chops and known to have turned down the role of Peeta from Hunger Games (why?) The cast did help to bolster the film’s lack of Gothic thrill.
The Woman in Black 2 is a decent enough horror for the mainstream crowd, but not enough terror for the horror die-hards out there. Although there was no reason for a sequel to be made, it didn’t end being too terrible. Let’s just hope they stop here.
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