A Quiet Death1/7/2015
But fast forward to 2014 and none of those people are back for the sequel, “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death,” having abandoned the franchise entirely.
The original earned points for attempting to be a fresh take on the haunted house trope. Viewers were impressed by its efforts to actually weave together a compelling ghost story rather than relying on tired jump scares and one-note thrills to drive the psychological action. The sequel does none of those things well and is little more than a blatant cash-grab and another example of film studios insisting on turning every decent film into a franchise, no matter how ill-suited it may be.
“The Woman in Black 2” takes place 40 years after the events of the original film. The story opens up with school teacher Eve (Phoebe Fox) grimly waiting out The Blitz in World War II England. When her school of children is relocated to a safer location outside of the city, Eve and Jean (Helen McCrory) go along to mind the kids. The relocation takes the group to Eel March House, which, for the uninitiated, is the home of the titular Woman in Black.
From there, any aim to tell a unique or meaningful story is pitched out the window, as director Tom Harper opts for all the classic horror story hits: dark hallways, creaky furniture, glassy-eyed dolls and children just being kind of creepy. All of this is peppered with a few jump scares (most of which you have actually already seen, if you have seen the trailer) and very little else. There is a barely-there romance story shoehorned into the second act between Eve and pilot (Jeremy Irvine), but it does nothing for the story.
Visually, the film had the potential to be a winner. Harper has a good eye for dread, and his use of color, mist and framing make for some scenes that are great to look at. But while the film captures a stark and sometimes foreboding feel, it never makes it all the way to scary. Instead, you sit in your seat and feel a little uneasy because you know the next lame jump scare is going to happen soon, but you never find your heart racing, wondering where the film will take you next.
The acting is OK, but nobody here is going to be burning up the box office on his or her own anytime soon. Fox does what she can with the run-of-the-mill, impossibly naïve, scary movie heroine role, and McCrory is the one who shows the most potential for genuine emotional range, as her Jean is the character who shows the most depth and is the one many people will empathize with most — assuming they empathize with any of them at all.
All in all, the best thing you can say about “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death” is also the worst thing you can say about most any movie you hope to be successful. It’s pretty by the numbers. The film plays it safe with the writing, the acting and with the scares. For a film that is at times so visually arresting, the fact that it’s such a blasé letdown in every other aspect makes the viewer feel like a parent scolding a child. I am not mad; I am just disappointed. CV
“The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death”
Starring: Phoebe Fox, Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine