The slaying of children continues in tumultuous fashion as The Woman in Black: Angel of Death returns, casting doom on all who visits Eel Marsh House. But does this malevolent spirit have enough energy to terrify us the second time around?
Forty years on and it’s WWII, head mistress Jean Hogg (Helen McCrory) and fellow teacher Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox) take a group of evacuated children to the country. They’re taken to the murky and desolate Eel Marsh House which to everyone’s surprise is in dire straits and almost uninhabitable. Unfortunately there isn’t anywhere else they can go so they attempt to settle in.
Young and attractive teacher Eve takes a shine to a mute orphan called Edward (Oaklee Pendergast) who’s recently lost his parents. Eve encourages him to speak but he’s too traumatised to talk and instead communicates via written notes.
It’s not long before strange and supernatural occurrences begin to invade the house and terrorise its tenants. Eve has disturbing dreams, goading memories of a dark past she’d rather forget. Edward withdraws even more, sketching images of a mysterious woman in black. The children tease him, stealing his drawing, something they later regret when the evil spirit reveals the extent of her wrath.
Eventually Eve discovers who the woman in black is and convinces battle-axe Head Mistress Jean that they must leave the house. Luckily military commander, and Eve’s love interest, Harry Burnstow (Jeremy Irvine) comes to save the day. But victory is short lived when Edward is drawn back to the house and Eve runs to save him.
The Woman in Black is a ghost story that should only be told once. It’s about a grieving mother who commits suicide after the death of her son. The essential part of this tragic tale is that the child never knew who his mother was and so her spirit takes revenge on the locals by killing their children.
The original film, based on Susan Hill’s novel, was an enjoyable assortment of well-worn supernatural tropes held together by an intriguing story. The problem with the sequel is that it recycles the same material but without any of the touches that made its predecessor a success. It tells a story that has already been told and, worse still for a horror movie, it simply isn’t terrifying enough.
Lacking the motivational enigma of the original – why does the woman in black seek revenge? The film is left with the predictable demise of characters we do not care for. Far from being the innocents in the original story, these children almost deserve to die for being petulant little brutes. The movie plays heavily on existing horror movie clichés, the weird child, rocking chairs, moving automata, dream sequence and spirit entities fooling around under the bed sheets. It sometimes borders on parody. It’s not that The Woman in Black: Angel of Death is a bad movie, it’s just not that spectacular either.
There are some enjoyable moments, love interest Harry Burnstow is easy on the eyes, sporting a sheepskin jacket which suits the winter season right now. And those sweeping aerial shots are to die for but who takes credit for these, the cinematographer or the VFX department? It’s impossible to tell these days.
The Woman in Black: Angel of Death is a disappointing sequel that doesn’t really further the story of the vengeful spirit but it might attract an audience given the success of its predecessor. But for hard-core horror fans it merely demonstrates the difficulties of trying to build a franchise on the back of a novel whose story needed no further elaboration.
The Woman in Black: Angel of Death is out now.
You can watch the trailer here.