December 29, 2014 Interview: Tom Harper talks The Woman in Black 2
Horror cinema has seen many changes since the early days of motion pictures. While blood and gore special effects have dominated most of the modern offerings, there is still something to be said for a good old fashion scare that involves atmosphere and mounted tension. Staying true to that old tradition, back in 2012, the Susan Hill Gothic novel The Woman in Black made its big screen debut while relaunching the classic British Horror leaders, Hammer Films. Now, two years later, the age of defiant ghosts continues with a new story titled The Woman in Black 2 Angel of Death. Set for release on the second day of 2015, the film features a bright young cast, with Director Tom Harper set to impress and frighten audiences. Recently, we sat down with Harper for a introspective look at his direction of The Woman in Black 2 Angel of Death, his emphasis on the film’s atmosphere, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – Back in 2012, The Woman in Black was released to very positive reception and marked the first Hammer Film Production in many years. Now coming in 2015, we have a new chapter in the story titled The Woman in Black 2 Angel of Death. How did your involvement in this new project come about?
Tom Harper – Well, Simon Oakes approached me and asked if I was interested directing The Women in Black 2 Angel of Death. I saw The Woman in Black around the time it came out and I really enjoyed the film. I was a bit skeptical because I sort of struggled to see how they would continue the story, though. They told me the idea of about keeping the ghost in the same house forty years later with a whole new bunch of characters. So it would have a entirely different character story, that intrigued me. Then I met with the screenwriter, Jon Croker, and he talked to me about the ideas and suddenly the world started opening up to me and the more we spoke about it, the more I got involved. It started to tumble on from there.
CrypticRock.com – The new film takes placed forty years later in the same location as the original story. There is certainly the same dark, gloomy atmosphere of the first film. How important was it to you as the director to create this type of atmosphere?
Tom Harper – It was very important. It goes back to the villa. There is something fantastically atmospheric about the Eel Marsh House and its surroundings. The fact that it is so isolated, it not only at the edge of the UK, but it is also on a causeway out at sea that gets cuts off by the tide. It is as if these forces of nature have their own maleficent presence that can blind you by the mist and cut you off from the main land with forces out of your control. That was a very organic and it was something that really struck me. I think the first film did that very well, but I also wanted to take it further. We worked hard to leave the house and go more to the marshes as much as we could.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that was excellently accomplished. This film certainly does have a very eerie feeling to it and the textures are quite wonderful. What was it like for working with the cast and crew on the film?
Tom Harper – One of the really lovely things to making a follow up film is there is perhaps a little more freedom with the casting than we might of had if we making the first movie. Therefore we casted a newcomer, Phoebe Fox, and she was amazing. It is very rare you get a chance to cast a lead role from someone who is lesser known from the public. It was a real pleasure working with her. Jeremy Irvine was also magnificent. He is actually a World War II fanatic and particularly into pilots. He was talking to me about a documentary he was trying to make about a particular pilot in World War II. He had an excitement for it, so it was clear he was right for the role. Helen McCory had previously worked on Peaky Blinders and she was great too. The designer and cinematographer are all friends and long-time collaborators of mine so it was a pleasure to be filming something that had so much texture and atmospheric qualities to it.
CrypticRock.com – It sounds like working on this film was a wonderful experience. As mentioned, The Woman in Black story is re-launching Hammer Film Productions and this sequel is the first sequel from Hammer in four decades. Growing up, were you a fan of the classic Hammer Films and how does it feel to be part of this new generation?
Tom Harper – I was a fan of the films of the growing up. I suppose I just saw them on TV when I was younger. They were very much part of the furniture somehow, so it has always been a brand I was aware of. It is such a privilege to be work with such a well known Horror brand, but at the same time I suppose I approached making this movie the same I would any other with a strong story and characters. You try and make it the best you can on its own merits, rather than thinking too much about the history of the company.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, that is completely understandable. In the case of The Woman in Black 2 Angel of Death, this is certainly a very refreshing, artful film with a lot of depth and relies strongly on the sound and mood, with genuine scares that leave a lot to the imagination. Do you prefer perimeters when directing a film, as opposed to more graphic, in your face effects?
Tom Harper – Most definitely. I certainly think it is more scary when you do not see something. I always find my imagination is the most terrifying thing. It is always what lies under the bed or the corner of the room. When it is easy to place what it is, it is less scary for me. At every stage in this film, I was always wanting to show less rather than more.
CrypticRock.com – That worked very well. There is a certain tension throughout the entire film and it leaves the scare up to the audience’s imagination. In the Horror genre, it is often a topic among fans about ratings and many believe that a Horror film should have an R rating. There have been a great deal of successful PG-13 rated Horrors in recent years. As a director, do you believe the restriction of a PG-13 rating can sometimes hamper the effectiveness of a Horror film or do you feel the rating is irrelevant?
Tom Harper – I guess it depends on the story you are trying to tell. For me, particularly for this film, I thought it was more about what you do not see rather than what you do. It is just terrifying, if not more so, if you do not show it. This film did not need the blood and gore, it did not need swearing or sex. This film did not feel very restricted in any way for me, it felt like the right way to go. Hopefully, even though you do not see the blood or gore you would see in some R rated Horror movies, this film has different effect in the fear that comes with it.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and the film does effectively strike fear without the gore. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a music and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Tom Harper – I do not have a particular type of Horror. I love The Shining (1980), The Ring (2002), The Innocents (1961) and Dark Water (2005). Rosemary’s Baby (1968) is another, there are just so many to name.