UK Release Date: 1st January 2015
Runtime: 123 minutes
Director: Tom Harper
Writer: Jon Croker, Susan Hill
Starring: Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Oaklee Pendergast
Synopsis: A group of children are evacuated to the remote Eel Marsh House during the Second World War, where they find themselves in the grip of the malevolent spirit present in the house.
When Hammer’s The Woman in Black – starring Daniel Radcliffe – was a monster hit in 2012, a sequel became almost inevitable. So, with the help of original novelist Susan Hill, the studio began work on The Woman in Black: Angel of Death – a brand new, original story that relocates the action to the midst of the Second World War.
A bunch of orphaned children, led by prim headmistress Jean Hogg (Helen McCrory), are evacuated from London to the remote Eel Marsh House. On the way there, teacher Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox) meets handsome airman Harry (Jeremy Irvine). At the house, youngster Edward (Oaklee Pendergast) begins to behave very strangely.
The first Woman in Black film found its success in the fact that it was a devilishly simple ghost story. Angel of Death ups the complexity and the number of characters. As a result, it feels overstuffed, unfocused and lacks the easy jump scares of the original.
| "I think you should keep your visions to yourself."
At the centre of it all is Phoebe Fox, doing a pretty decent job with the meagre material on offer. She holds everything together nicely most of the time, but struggles when she is forced to spend lengthy scenes doing little other than trade weakly flirtatious quips with Jeremy Irvine – whose character is nothing more than a jawline.
There’s simply no creativity on show. Whilst the first film took great pleasure in crafting its jump scare sequences, Angel of Death is content to just turn the volume up as high as possible and hope that does the job. For the most part, it doesn’t. The scares are few and far between and none of them help to create anything in the way of lasting tension.
It’s the ending, though, that illustrates the problems with the film most clearly. Rather than stripping everything back to haunted house basics, as the first movie did, it instead attempts to conjure up something epic against the backdrop of a German air raid. Unfortunately, it all just ends up being a little too much and the supposedly heroic denouement rings very hollow indeed.
| "Are you sure there’s nobody else living here?"
The Woman in Black: Angel of Death is not the start to 2015 that horror fans will have wanted. It’s yet another example of a horror sequel that doesn’t bother to do anything interesting and is instead content to crank up the volume and abandon any sense of creativity.
Pop or Poop?
Sequels should attempt to repeat and enhance what it was that made their predecessors work.
The Woman in Black: Angel of Death chooses to ignore the success of simplicity and instead focuses on a lazy romance and a toolkit of lame jump scares.
Hopefully, 2015 has better horror in store than this.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.