A gorgeous looking sequel to the 2012 film, with an authentic story also written by Susan Hill, the author of the original novel ‘The Woman in Black’.
For those not familiar with the titular ‘Woman in Black’, she is a seriously creepy character, an apparition who haunts the infamous ‘Eel Marsh House’, an old isolated, Edwardian property accessed by a treacherous causeway, who, if sighted is a death omen for any children who may be nearby.
In short, an arguably perfect setup for any traditional gothic horror story.
Avoiding the pitfalls of most horror sequels, ‘The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death’ manages to capitalise on the lore, almost as effectively as the original film, weaving in an appropriate story within some familiar feeling scares, with tasteful restraint; perhaps, however, with a little to much restraint which I will get to in a moment.
The plot of this sequel sees a group of evacuated orphans leave London amidst the regular Luftwaffe bombings of World War 2, their destination, the ill-fated Eel Marsh House. Once there, accompanied by 2 female wards and a young pilot stationed at the nearby airfield, the group must endure supernatural bombardment of the Woman in Black. Can they figure out how to break the ghostly curse before the children suffer the fate of many others?
The original movie was set in a period setting also, and this one manages to feel authentic, although admittedly you kind of got where this was going, regardless of the context. That said, this time period intrinsically creates an atmosphere and vibrancy in its own right.
The cinematography is stunning, and this sequel looks gorgeous. The period scenes of destruction in London, the dimly lit sets owing to the blackout’s enforced to prevent the enemy planes spotting the cities as they hunt for targets. The clothing gives it a period edge, whilst allowing some contextual differentiation from the original movie – there’s a fantastic set piece at the airfield in the later part of the film which stands out to represent this point well, as an example. Even the old vehicles making their way across the perilous causeway deliver a feeling of isolation and vulnerability in the way the horse and coach did in the first movie.
The films atmosphere is on point, and almost to a fault, the film is slow and methodical in ensuring there’s an organic tension allowed to build as the plot progresses.
That said, whereas I felt the original hit the mark, was blending a traditional story, with modern jolts and scares. If you want old school chills, read the novel, and seriously, if you’re in London, go see the play its equally phenomenal. The original movie succeeded to highlight exactly why the novel is so revered, because it’s a classic story, which stands the test of time with modern horrors.
The original ‘Woman in Black’ felt like a British ‘Hammer’ answer to the popular Blumhouse productions; and in my opinion it worked. Sadly, it proved to be a ‘lightning strikes only once’ affair, because with the ‘Woman in Black 2’, despite all efforts to keep it subtle, to ensure it didn’t show its hand to quickly, it lacks scares.
Don’t get me wrong, its got a few jolts, but its most effective with the build-up and there are many solid tension building set pieces; but all foreplay and no sex does not quite hit the mark and despite me gushing about the films production, story and setting, its oddly difficult to recommend over the original.
In fact, because it sticks so rigidly to the lore, location and concept of the original movie, its lack of scares sort of make it a little redundant unless you simply cannot get enough ‘Woman in Black’.
Overall, I realise my review is a little schizophrenic here, but watch it an see if you agree. ‘The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death’ is a fantastic horror film, and I loved it. However, if you’ve seen the original, and I think that as it’s a sequel it’s a safe assumption viewers likely have, you’ve pretty much seen the best of the chills in the franchise, along with that fantastic original story. Kudos all round for efforts here though, and the 3.5 stars perhaps sells it a little short as a stand-alone film.
By all means, if you’ve not watched the first, and you do happen to come across this movie as your first ‘Woman in Black’ experience then you are in for a treat; but the 2012 entry in the franchise remains the better of the two films; especially in the fright-department.