Review: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death
PLOT: In this sequel to the Daniel Radcliffe starring haunted house drama, a group of young children and their caretakers find themselves facing the menacing spectral. Taking place 40 years later, the WOMAN IN BLACK is still seeking her horrific vengeance on all those who come in contact with her.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH occasionally appears to be a terribly average film. It offers a number of expected spooks, convenient horror tropes and a few loud bursts of music to provoke scares. Yet somehow, this ghostly sequel still works well enough to warrant a viewing. Taking place 40 years after the first film, this story focuses on a small group of orphaned children who are forced to move to the now abandoned Eel Marsh House. While it may be slightly predictable, this is an atmospheric and classically inspired haunted house tale that manages a decent fright or two.
When we first meet Eve (Phoebe Fox), she is consoling a young girl in a shelter while bombs are exploding around them. It is 1941, in London, and the world is at war. Eve is a caretaker for a group of young orphans, who are soon evacuated from London to the abandoned British countryside in hopes to evade the violence and death. While the stern headmistress Jean (Helen McCrory) endeavors to keep the children on task and unemotional, Eve feels deeply for a young boy named Edward (Oaklee Pendergast) who lost his parents during the bombing. Yet soon after they arrive to the creepy and desolate mansion, Eve begins to think that they are not alone thanks to a mysterious figure, one that pays a whole of attention to Edward.
As this shy young boy continues to draw pictures of his deceased family as well as detach himself from the others, he is taunted by a couple of students. That is when things get deadly serious when some of the children begin to seemingly attempt to take their own life. Meanwhile, Eve is faced with endless dream sequences as are we - of her own haunted past, one she has tried to remove herself from. When all their lives become more at risk, she pleads with those around her that there is something unwelcome in the house. The question is, will they believe her before it is too late? Thankfully and conveniently - a pilot (Jeremy Irvine) with his own secrets is there to console and support her.
While the original film featured Daniel Radcliffe in his first leading role since HARRY POTTER, this sequel offers nary a hint of his presence unless I missed one. The male lead here is Irvine (WAR HORSE), yet he is secondary to Phoebe Fox. In fact, while this sequel is far from a perfect film, the actress gives a very sympathetic and vulnerable performance that elevates the material. And while Eve stumbles around in the dark corridors, much like Mr. Radcliffe did in the previous film, she ably creates a warm character, one that wears a smile in the darkest times. It is a lovely performance, and one that anchors this PG-13 thriller above what it could have been.
Director Tom Harper may be dealing with very familiar territory here, but with war torn London as a backdrop, he creates a sense of dread from the gloomy times Eve and the children find themselves in. Once they arrive at the house, he manages to invoke a few decent scares that create moments of tension. You may see them coming, but with the right atmosphere and an all too barely lit set, you may find yourself looking closer into the darkness. For hardened horror fans, this will barely register, but if you if are spooked by ghostly images creeping out from the shadows you may be pleasantly surprised.
My own recollection of the 2012 film, directed by James Watkins, is limited. In a way, this helped going into the sequel as I had minimal expectation of what the new film had to offer. Thankfully, every so often this latest chapter would rise above, especially with one impressive sequence at a decoy air base. Perhaps it was simply because they moved away from the house, but this expansion of the world was a nice change of pace. It also allowed both McCrory and Irvine to have a moment to shine.
THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2 is certainly not a great film, yet perhaps the classically told ghost story felt a bit more refined than your typical haunted horror release as of late. Sure there are forced jump scares and expected spooks abound, yet there is something likable about this supernatural sequel. Much of the credit can be given to Phoebe Fox who elegantly brings warmth to the screen. She is a uniquely sympathetic actress who creates a viable bond with young and mostly silent Pendergast. If you are looking for an entertaining ghost story, THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2 conjures up a few decent frights. It is certainly better than most of the January horror entries over the past few years.
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