Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some Disturbing and Frightening Images, and Thematic Elements
Directed by: Tom Harper
Written by: Jon Croker
Starring: Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Adrian Rawlins, Leanne Best, Ned Dennehy, Oaklee Pendergast & Jude Wright
2012’s WOMAN IN BLACK wasn’t exactly a high mark in the annals of horror cinema, but it was entertaining spooky fun that made waves at the box office. Apparently, enough waves were made to warrant a sequel ordered by the studio. Now, I’m not at all against the idea of a sequel to WOMAN IN BLACK. Susan Hill (author of the novel that inspired the first film) initially planned on penning a sequel, but never got around to it for some reason. WOMAN IN BLACK 2 uses the general premise that Hill planned on using for her never-made follow-up and adds loads of jump scares, bland characters and a script that seems to focus far more on boring the viewer than actually scaring them.
It’s WWII and children are being shipped off to the English countryside. One of these countryside havens is the isolated Eel Marsh House. Eve Parkins is a hired guardian for schoolchildren staying at the haunted location. You see, Eel Marsh House has a ghostly resident that isn’t too fond of kids. Every time an adult catches a glimpse of her, a child dies. That was the formula used in the first WOMAN IN BLACK and it’s continues to be the formula used here. Seeing as there are a small number of adults around and lots of potential young victims. The grown ups begin to see the Woman and the children begin dying. Eve tries to solve the mystery of the Woman in Black to find any possible way to stop the murderous ghost’s reign of terror. Presumably, this is because the schoolchildren are dropping like flies and the ghost might decide to turn on adults after her supply of kids runs dry.
If there is anything nice to say about WOMAN IN BLACK 2, it would probably be about the visuals. The film looks good. The sets are appropriately gloomy. However, this sequel never managed to suck me into it. Despite 2012’s WOMAN IN BLACK being far from perfect, there was a decent amount of interest and character development put into the screenplay. That doesn’t seem to be the case in this second installment. WOMAN IN BLACK 2 feels like a cash-grab all the way through. The visuals might look eerie in places, but the viewer will find themselves struggling to stay awake as nothing really happens. There’s a ghost. She jumps out and scares a few people in the cheapest jump scares in quite some time and…that’s about it. There’s no real story, just a promising premise that’s never fleshed out or examined at all. That’s pretty sad given that the plot initially sounds like it could be pretty cool. You have a ghost that kills children and you’re sending a load of kids to her location. A good script would write itself if the director or writer would embrace that potential.
When it’s not failing with cheap jump scares that are so bad that they’re hilarious (an early moment involving a crib made me laugh out loud), WOMAN IN BLACK 2 is shamelessly reusing plot points or deliberately copying scenes directly from the 2012 movie. While Daniel Radcliffe heard strange sounds in the foggy Eel Marsh and that was genuinely freaky, Eve hears that exact same sounds to little effect. The rocking chair scare is also used again verbatim. Despite the fact that we know the origin of the Woman in Black, this sequel treats the mystery as if its something that we’ve never seen before. In addition to all of this, the characters are as bland as can be. Eve serves no other purpose than to walk around and look scared. Her boyfriend serves no other purpose than to be her romantic interest and the one tough guy around. Finally, the annoying headmistress serves no other purpose than to be the obnoxious antagonist of the main character who is quickly forgotten. The best character in the film has one small scene of the movie and is totally underused, despite his presence being an interesting one. I’m keeping this vague for those who still want to see the film.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH marks yet another misfire for the new Hammer studios and is possibly their worst film yet. I can’t even see diehard fans of 2012’s WOMAN IN BLACK (not that there were that many to begin with) enjoying this tedious sequel. Visuals only get you so far. When you have atmospheric cinematography and I’m somehow not being remotely sucked into your story, there are serious problems with the film. Why should I bother venting anymore about this sorry, sad excuse for a horror film? Avoid it! Skip it! Pretend it doesn’t exist and move along with your life.