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New Review: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2015)
Director: Tom Harper
Cast: Phoebe Fox, Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine, Oaklee Pendergast, Leanne Best
It's London, 1941. Citizens hole up in an underground tunnel while the Germans bomb the city up above. The kindhearted school teacher Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox) speaks comforting words to a scared little girl and smiles at her. The child's mother is astonished. "Night after night of this," she says. "You're still smiling." The teacher's face saddens a little. "You've got to, haven't you?" she replies.
The next day, Eve and another, more no-nonsense teacher named Jean (Helen McCrory) are at the train station, where they plan to take eight of their students to a house in the country to keep them safe. One young boy named Edward (Oaklee Pendergast) was planning to stay in the city with his family, but both of his parents were killed in the bombings the night before, and the young lad hasn't spoken a word since it happened.
The movie's not even five minutes old, and I'm already thinking, "Hey, there's a potentially interesting story here." The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death is, of course, the sequel to the 2012 horror movie starring Daniel Radcliffe, which I hated with an intense passion. This sequel still isn't a very good movie, but it's got a far more interesting script than the original, it looks just as good, and it has at least a couple of characters who are somewhat interesting (this movie doesn't make the same mistake as its predecessor, which placed the movie on the shoulders of a miscast leading man).
Among them is a fighter pilot named Harry (Jeremy Irvine), whom Eve meets on the train ride to the country. An obligatory romance forms between Harry and Eve, and it feels both superficial and unnecessary. But Harry is given his own interesting, war-based tragic backstory, and Irvine is quite good in the role. Eve herself has her own sad history, although hers involves a child she bore but was forced to let go because she was too young to care for it. These little touches help flesh out the characters more than you would expect, and it helps that the performances are really quite good.
But I'm getting off track here. The Woman in Black 2 is a horror movie because, guess what, the country house Eve and her group decide to stay at is the old Gothic Eel Marsh House, which is still haunted by the titular, child-murdering wraith (this time played by Leanne Best). Talk about bad luck. Anyone who remembers the original knows that anytime anyone sees the Woman in Black, she'll causes a small child to take their own life. Here, one little boy is found dead tangled up in a barbed wire fence, while one little girl attempts to strangle herself with a very long strand of red yarn.
It's not very pleasant, and the scares here rely on the most tiresome tricks in the book. More than once, Eve finds herself wondering around by herself at night with a lantern, investigating some strange noise while saying, "Hello? Is anyone there?" When that gets old, the movie piles on the jump scares, which are naturally accompanied by a sharp sting on the soundtrack (BOO! It's only a bird. BOO! It's just the bully scaring Edward.) There's not a second of it that's even remotely frightening, and it gets tiresome pretty quickly.
In terms of the movie's visual look, it's just as solid as the original. The Eel Marsh house is just as eye-catching and atmospheric as ever, and cinematographer George Steel, who bathes the movie in a gorgeous gray and blue glow, makes excellent use out of the location. My favorite set is easily the decoy Air Force base we see in the end, which has a creepy bunker, wooden airplanes, and a number of fire baskets which are used to make the Germans think they've hit their target. For audiences simply looking for a terrific looking horror show, they can do far worse than this (like the original movie).
The problem is that there are ingredients here for something more. Everyone here has suffered in one way or another (including the seemingly snooty Jean, which she reveals in an uncommonly well-written scene), and the Woman in Black does something to trigger those personal wounds (Eve has nightmares, Harry freaks out any time he makes his way across the marsh, etc). With a tighter script and sharper direction, this could have been something quite compelling, but The Woman in Black 2 cops out and goes for cheap scare tactics and off-putting scenes of child endangerment, and it isn't long before the audience begins to lose interest.
Give the movie some credit, though. For a horror movie released in the month of January, it's far better than anyone could have expected.
Rated PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images
Final Grade: ** ½ (out of ****)
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- The Woman in Black: Angel of Death | Film review and movie reviews | Radio Times
Film review, trailer and photos. Find out when The Woman in Black: Angel of Death is on at the cinema, on TV and where it is available on demand on catch up and to download.
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The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2015) - 2/4 Stars - A been-there-done-that-better shadow of 2012's spookier, tenser 'The Woman in Black.'