Set during WW2, two nannies (Helen McCrory and Phoebe Fox) bring a group of kids to the Eel Marsh House for shelter from the kaboom going around; too bad thereâ€™s a chickadee ghost in that house and sheâ€™s got a thing for offing kids! Let the BOO SCARE marathon begin!
Hammer’s 2012 THE WOMAN IN BLACK
was a che-ching hit for the Studio, so I wasn’t surprised when a sequel was announced. But to be honest, nothing that I saw about the second installement online excited me about it. It also didn’t help my confidence in the film that my press screening was cancelled at the last minute (never a good sign) and that the film was premiering on January 2nd i.e. dumping month. So I somewhat dragged my feet to go catch it today, with the promise of a large tub of PopCorn with extra faux butter being the sole reason that I felt any excitement about my outing. And at the end of it all the film wasn’t half bad, nothing to steal your neighbor's wife over, but far from a stinker. Lets dig in!
The first thing that struck me about THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2 was the production values. Maybe it’s because I was expecting a low rent “should have been straight to VOD”
cheapie with no names in it; but damn this flick looked good! In true old school Hammer form, the mood here was gothic and infectious. The constant fog (Work that smoke machine, WORK IT!), the abandonned old mansion, the vast and ominous marsh, the old school cemetery, the creepy dolls (even that rocking monkey from the first movie made a comeback here)… we got the retro works! I personally love that old fashion horror vibe and got it in spades here! It also helped matters that director Tom Harper and his talented DP Zac Nicholson were aces behind the camera. They did a marvelous job at evoking dread, milked their striking British countryside locations (the mansion included) and some of the shots/camera moves and angles simply wowed me in terms of their ambitiously stylized nature. Say what you will about this sucka; it at least was slick with its money on the screen!
Moreover, the cast of unknowns (to me anyways) held their own and lent further credibility to the story at hand. Helen McCrory was ideal as the hard-ass Nanny and every time I thought she’d go the “too evil cliché” way, they would reel her in and humanize her. That was a nice change of pace for a character of this ilk. Mommy Dearest she wasn’t… she EASILY could have been though. Jeremy Irvine was likeable and earnest as young pilot Harry Burnstow who has a thing for our lead dame. Granted he almost got upstaged by that badass pilot jacket he wore but just when I thought the jacket would take over, he’d up his game, so that didn’t happen. NOTE: Great f-ing jacket. Finally child actor Oaklee Pendergast did a fantastic job as the young and troubled kid; I felt for him big time and he didn’t get on my nerves once, which was a feat in itself.
But the super-glue that held the whole thing together was without a doubt the gorgeous Phoebe Fox as our heroine Eve Parkins who by no coincidence (I assume) also starred in Tom Harper’s other 2014 flick War Book. I guess the lad has found his muse. Fox had all of the qualities needed to be an elevated female lead. The camera loved her, she oozed of charm and class and the way she internalized her many emotions to then have us read them in here eyes/body language was masterful. I think we have a new Eva Green on our hands, a “good girl” version of her that is! Fox kept me riveted to the screen, even when the flick would falter or take too familiar paths. Kudos!
Which brings me to my peeves. Yes the whole was deja-vu when compared to the original film and the countless haunted house horror movies out there. It wouldn't have been a huge deal, if the flick at least managed to milk some suspense out of its material. Sadly, ahough this follow-up went buck-nuts with the easy boo-scares (Easy guys, EASY!), as opposed to the first film this sequel missed the tug-boat when it came to generating true tension. Which was a shame because technically, it was all there, but what was on paper (or how they handled the edit) was just not frightening and was too by the numbers to get any true shivers out of me. There was also one plot thread that I wished there would have been more to. It kind of left me hanging as the end credits rolled. Lastly the chain of events and the turns that came with it were fairly predictable in a been there done that kind of way. It would have been cool if the flick tried to use our knowledge of haunted house movie conventions against us instead of playing its game so safely and close to the vest every step of the way. I could have forgiven that if it had an iota of suspense going for it.What can you do…
Overall; THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2 was not the shit and lettuce sandwich I thought it was going to be. The movie was visually sumptuous; they had a talented cast going and a couple of decent BOO jolts (if not too many). On that, if there were ever a wait for VOD title, this one would be it! It was decent but nothing special. Welcome to 2015 people! Lets make it our bitch!
Some light blood here and there.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2 made for an okay watch. If it wasnâ€™t for the slick shots, the potent Gothic atmosphere and the on the money cast (somebody make Phoebe Fox a star already â€“ she has â€śitâ€ť), it could have been a waste. Itâ€™s in the story department (or the way it was edited) that the film faltered. True suspense was absent hence making the dĂ©jĂ vu chain of events come off a bit flat. It couldâ€™ve been more than just another pedestrian ghost flick with a little bite to it. Like I said before; itâ€™s not a bad movie, just a very unremarkable and by the numbers one. See it on a rainy Sunday morning at home with a beer in your hand and somebodyâ€™s head in your lap. Keep your big screen coin for something else. Just my 3 cents!
Hammer released a novelization of the film's screenplay in 2013. Author Martyn Waites wrote it.
Jeremy Irvine starred in the 2011 War Horse directed by Steven Spielberg.
Phoebe Fox was born in 1987 and lives in London.