The Woman in Black was one of the biggest surprises of 2012 – it was a refreshing take on the haunted house genre because it didn’t rely on jump scares. Rather, it engaged you with seriously creepy atmosphere and unbearable tension to keep you fidgeting in your seats. It also made one take Daniel Radcliffe seriously as an adult actor. Since that movie made a decent amount of money, Hollywood did what is expected of it – churning out a sequel to rake in some more from your pocket. And The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death is exactly what it is expected to be – a disappointing and lazy cash grab.
Directed by Tom Harper, The Woman in Black 2 does all the things that part one avoided – it resorts to very loud and very cheap jump scares, has a protagonist we just don’t care about, has a story that is laughably bad, side characters that exist only to be picked off by the evil entity, and a ghost that is evil just for the sake of being evil. It’s just a standard issue direct to DVD horror movie with very good production values that make you believe there’s something more to the movie than meets the eye. Sadly there is nothing beyond the surface level, and the filmmakers just make you wait for something interesting to happen but nothing does.
This time the film takes place forty years after the events of the first film – two women bring a bunch of kids to the haunted house on the derelict island, and discover a malevolent entity lurking within the walls, picking off the kids one by one. The lack of logic is baffling – it seems everyone forgot about what happened forty years ago, and there is no explanation as to why this creepy, and obviously haunted house is the only place for these two women to bring a dozen kids to. It’s a convenient plot vehicle to scare you by getting children in isolated places and killing them off. There’s also a strange side plot of a crazy blind man and a bunch of ghost children hanging out in the abandoned town near the island – it adds nothing except for some more cheap eardrum shattering jolts.
The only silver lining in this snoozefest is newcomer Phoebe Fox who is not only very pretty but is also a really good performer as she holds her ground in a film full of silliness. If only she weren’t offset by the character of Helen McCrory, who spends three fourths of the film denying the existence of ghosts with heavy handed philosophical ramblings, and then hilariously apologizes for the same when the woman in black shows up in her face.
(First published in Mid Day)