I was looking forward to the sequel to the 2012 Daniel Radcliffe vehicle The Woman in Black, based on the 1983 novella by Susan Hill. While it had an overreliance on jump scares & an unfortunately altered ending, it was wonderfully atmospheric & did a good job of creating a real feeling of the time in which it was set. The principal acting was good and the idea of a force that strikes not at the protagonist himself but at the children in the surrounding community is different enough from the standard horror fare to be interesting in itself. It was a good start for the rebirth of the Hammer films horror dynasty.
It’s sequel, not so much so…….. So let’s take a look at The Woman in Black: Angel of Death.
Our story opens in a subway tunnel shelter in London 1941 during the Blitz, and initially this seems like a really intriguing idea. How many ghost stories are set in WWII? Our main character is a young woman played by Phoebe Fox helping evacuate children away from the London bombings and when you get to see the charred London skyline and the barrage balloons drifting in the sooty morning light, it really does an excellent job of setting the scene.
So of course, they leave as soon as possible. Our next scene is at a train station, evacuating children into the English countryside. We meet Edward, played by Oaklee Pendergast, a young boy struck mute after witnessing the death of his parents, who will be doing duty as our mcGuffin in this story… and that is about all the character he will be given.
Let me pause for a moment to say just how dark and unpleasant the cinematography becomes from this point on. It feels like, after five minutes, the film has all the color desaturated from it and the rest of the film is shot in a mold encrusted truck-stop bathroom light by a fifteen-watt bulb. Never again will the movie show even a glimmer of the light or promise of its start.
Nonsensically, the children and their guardians are taken to Illmarsh house, the haunted residence from the first film. When the head governess comments on how insane sticking a bunch of schoolkids in a half tumbled down house that is visibly rotting and positively dripping with fungus and mold, that is cut off from the mainland half the time and surrounded by a sucking bog that has killed children before she is told there is no where else…….in England……our writers are apparently under the belief that the British Isles are roughly the size of Rhode Island.
Couldn’t they have evacuated the kids to the nearby village and then have our midnight bedecked boogeywoman seek them out? In the first film, she doesn’t seem to have much trouble getting around her neighborhood. So why did they feel the need to stick our characters in a house in the middle of a bog that has been abandoned for FORTY YEARS?!
And so begin the jump scares and I hope you like them because, unlike the first film, that is all this movie has to offer. No slow burn atmospheric builds, no creepy hints leading to disturbing revelations just…..BOOOOO! Well, that and some pretty bad child acting and I think we can all agree that can be pretty scary.
Of course, our titular Woman in Black becomes fascinated with Edward and plot ensues. We meet a young RAF pilot portrayed by Jeremy Irvine, who might have been interesting if he was given more to work with. The movie stumbles on for about another hour, a bully who we all know will die, dies because bullies die in horror films. The woman in black breaks the rules from the first film because I don’t think the writers bothered to watch the first film, a few vain attempts at character development are made, a random unexplained blind guy shows up to menace Phoebe Fox for no particular reason, and seemingly the woman in black is laid to rest… again.
And of course, we have to have our ending jump scare that is so telegraphed I swear it RSVP’d.
In the end, The Woman in Black : Angel of Death takes an interesting setting, some talented actors, and the budding rebirth of the Hammer horror dynasty and mixes it with bad ideas, sloppy writing, and a total reliance on jump scares to create a tepid, annoying mess whose few virtues just aren’t worth sitting through the frustration of its weaknesses. Avoid at all costs. It is so lifelessly dull that not even a bevy of friends and an overindulgence of icy cold adult beverages can add much needed charm to this sad follow-up.
It’s not a horror, gothic, or otherwise, but if you want a better fantasy about WWII child evacuees I’d recommend Bedknobs & Broomsticks. At least in that you get cool suits of magically animated armor versus German commandos, reckless child endangerment, Disney soccer hooliganism, and musical numbers, not something you’ll find together in one movie very often. I’ll also promise no one is going to try to make you jump by smearing a CGI fright mask on the screen while stepping on a cat’s tail.
Until next time this is Justin bringing you reviews from the edge.