Rejoice, moviegoers. We have finally entered what we expect to be one of the best years for movies in, well, history. Is that pushing it? I’m not so sure. Everything from Pixar’s Inside Out to Pixar’s Finding Dory to the next Scorsese project entitled Silence are coming this year. And I haven’t even mentioned the next Avengers movie or Spectre (the 24th Bond film). And I cannot possibly forget about the end-of-the-year Christmas present, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But do you know what it takes to get there? An entire month of awful movies. January has become the designated garbage bin for cinematic trash; a month that studios pick to dump the movies that they know won’t be well received. The first to be chucked to the 2015 January landfill is The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, and it’s every bit as awful as I expected from an early January-released horror flick.
What’s so unfortunate about Angel of Death is the fact that I enjoyed the first one (it was a February release, not much better). That film, while far from being great or even memory searing, was efficaciously spooky and made the best of its clichéd haunted-house-story by offering a few nice little twists, and Daniel Radcliffe made for an expectedly likeable lead. Again, I didn’t “love” The Woman in Black, but I enjoyed it quite a bit (so much so that I bought it on Blu-ray). I don’t remember much of what happened in that movie, though (save for the ending and some bits inside the woman’s bedroom with the rocking chair), but I remember more from that one, which I last saw two years ago, than I do this one, which I saw only hours ago. Yeah, let that sink in.
The story of The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death is almost as ludicrous as the title. Set during WWII (not nearly as creepy as the Edwardian-era that saturated the events of the first film), the film opens to a group of schoolchildren led by their teacher (Phoebe Fox) and the headmistress (Jean Hogg), attempting to find solace from the reigning bombs (they’re in London, by the way). They resort to Eel Marsh House, which we, the viewers, know is inhabited by The Woman in Black. She has a thing for children, which makes the things that go bump in the night even bumpier with this crowd. Unfortunately, a lot of it is hard to see because of the frustratingly opaque cinematography by George Steel. He does have unfortunate circumstances, though, as the screenwriter doesn’t allow electricity in the house. I could buy that the house doesn’t have electricity in the era in which the first film took place, but to have the wiring just not work in the mid-1900s? C’mon! Make a light flicker here and there or something, but don’t rid us of all light. Steel’s camerawork is good (really, it is), but it’s the cloudiness of the lighting (especially in the shots of the outside world, sometimes as dark as those inside the house) that make it difficult to watch.
Angel of Death also succumbs to the tragedy of depending on jump scares. Funny, I don’t remember the first one depending on them so much, even really at all. Then again, I don’t remember that much about it as a whole. But when the main thing you remember about a movie is the amount of fake-out jumps, it becomes a problem. That is the case with this sequel, which features so many shots of birds hitting windows, kids randomly popping into frame, and picture frames cracking, all backed up by a loud, thunderous, jolting BOOM. Enough already!
The only positive thing I can say about the first horror dud of 2015 (apart from the camerawork being good) is that the cast does an okay job, which is a welcome surprise in itself. Usually the main blemish in these low-key horror throwaways is the poor acting. In this case, it’s the best aspect (believe it or not, even the child actors are decent). But it isn’t enough to make the movie good, okay, average, or even watchable. It’s not a matter of not-as-good-as-the-original because while watching, I never really compared it to the original. It has virtually nothing in common with the first one. Director Tom Harper (he directed some of Steven Knight’s series Peaky Blinders) doesn’t bring anything stylistic or scary, and he does nothing at all to deliver the chills that were evident in the first film. The Woman in Black 2 is terrible. But did you expect anything more?
Rated PG-13 for some disturbing and frightening images, and for thematic elements
Cast: Phoebe Fox, Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine
Writer: Jon Croker
Director: Tom Harper
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