The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death (film review by Frank Ochieng).
The original ‘The Woman In Black’ in 2012 was actually a surprisingly taut and effective supernatural thriller that featured some solid tension, decent acting and evidence that ‘Harry Potter’ phenom Daniel Radcliffe could spread out beyond his confined worldwide wizardry wonderment and serve up a convincing dose of adult-oriented suspense in James Watkins’ sobering and sophisticated creepfest. Admittedly, ‘The Woman In Black’ was not what one would call a gory groundbreaking showcase in its designated genre but it did register as a literate and edge-of-your-seat spooky spectacle that held its own in slow burning thrills, It is too bad that one cannot make the same claim for director Tom Harper’s sluggish, by-the-dots ghoulish follow-up ‘The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death’.
Sure, the star power of Radcliffe’s on-screen presence, Watkins’s probing direction, screenwriter Jane Goldman’s imaginative vision for the morbid material and the haunting set designs were all skillfully inviting. Instead, ‘Angel Of Death’ settles for echoing hair-raising copycat convictions from its predecessor aided by Harper’s pedestrian direction.
The setting for ‘Angel Of Death’ takes place four decades after the first major haunting at Eel Marsh House located away from the war-time fracas taking place in the city. A collection of children and their teachers decide to descend upon Eel Marsh House to escape the treacherous fighting surrounding the confines of World War II London. Naturally, the presence of these new faces is going to disturb the macabre forces that linger inside the hedonistic house. For these new inhabitants, one might even argue that staying put right in the middle of the war zone of the city may have been a safer choice as opposed to being subjected to the unpredictability of the shifty shelter they have occupied.
The intensity builds within the walls of the Eel Marsh House when one particular youngster in Edward (Oaklee Pendergast) starts demonstrating some peculiar behavior as he engages in erratic accounts about the house’s famed spookiness thus upsetting the other children in the process. Even one of the adults in Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox) acknowledges the strange goings-on in the haunted household as the atmospheric terror applies to her own personalized demons. Of course, this does not prevent Eve from further delving into the unanswered questions about the horrific history that the Eel Marsh House maintains in its raunchy reputation.
No one can deny the stylish kinetic surge and occasional distressing bumps that ‘The Woman In Black II: Angel Of Death’ brings to the rickety table. After all, there is something absorbingly freakish about the tingling proceedings to a certain extent. However, ‘Angel Of Death’ manages to convey the familiar mysterious themes and devices that suggests a creepy caper lazily borrowing from other fright fare with better skin-crawling execution. The ‘endangered little kid serving as a petrified pawn for the ominous spirits inside a haunting haven’ has been revisited more times than anyone can count and with less chaotic finesse. ‘Angel Of Death’ feels clunky and uninspired while never going beyond trying to ape the shadowy shenanigans of its original blueprint.
Interestingly, ‘Angel Of Death’ could have made for a satisfying historical horror sideshow as it serves as an acceptable nostalgic piece pitted in the sensibilities of its World War II-era foundation. Unfortunately, Harper does not capitalise effectively on the period piece narrative that could have put a distinctive spin on this disjointed horror and suspense production. There is nothing daringly compelling or overtly curious about the titular character nor the Eel Marsh House that the ‘Women In Black’ roams around in with so-called ghastly intimidation. The showy set designs are a scream to behold but it never seems to match the limp tension-filled drama.
Sadly, the performers get lost in the shuffle and only add further convoluted static to the staid entertainment. As one of the star heroines, Fox’s Eve is not suitably challenged enough by the strained morbid material that undermines her efforts. As the tormented tyke, Pendergast’s Edward is a walking cliche reduced to unfair comparisons of other creep-minded kiddies in superior goosebump flicks. Both Jeremy Irvine’s fighter pilot Harry Burnstow and Helen McCrory’s Jean Hogg feel like romantic fill-ins left over from an unfinished Stephanie Meyer manuscript. Additionally, Leanne Best’s ‘Woman In Black’ is kept mildly restrained in the darkness.
The wasted potential concerning ‘The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death’ is the film’s genuine crisis and the unintended scare of them all.
The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death (2015)
1 hr. 38 mins.
Starring: Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine, Phoebe Fox, Oaklee Pendergast, Leanne Best and Adrian Rawlings
Directed by: Tom Harper
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Horror & Suspense/Supernatural/Haunted House thriller
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2015