January 2, 2015 The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (Movie Review)
Starting off 2015 right, on Friday, January 2nd, the second chapter of The Woman in Black is set for release. After the highly successful original big screen debut of Susan Hill’s novel in 2012 starring Daniel Radcliffe, 2015’s The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death marks the first Hammer films sequel in over three decades. Directed by talented, young Brit Tom Harper (The Borrowers 2011, The Scouting Book for Boys 2009) and written by Jon Croker (Desert Dancer 2014, Ealing Comedy 2008), the film tells a new tale of the infamous ghost that simply never left the Eel Marsh House.
In World War II London, children were most commonly evacuated to the British countryside to escape the daily bombing assaults by the Nazis. Schoolteacher Eve Parkins (Pheobe Fox: War Book 2014, Switch TV Series 2012) and Headmaster Jean Hogg (Helen McCrory: Harry Potter movie series 2009-2011, Penny Dreadful TV series 2014-2015) agree to educate and look after children who are being evacuated to the countryside to Eel Marsh House, forty years after the first haunting took place. The house, as explained upon arrival, has fallen into great disrepair.
Enter young Edward (Oaklee Pendergast: Wer 2013, The Impossible 2012), a newly orphaned and catatonic boy. Aided by Harry Burnstow (Jeremy Irvine: War Horse 2011, Great Expectations 2012), a young pilot she had met on the train, the good intentioned Eve begins to feel the oppressive nature of the house and its darkest inhabitant, the Woman in Black. Having lost her son, the Woman in Black preys on the children one by one, drawing them to their deaths, believing that causing loss to Miss Parkins and Hogg will ease her own sadness.
Harry Barstow is a former pilot in charge of an air base near Eel House Manor, suffering through his own losses, and he jumps at any chance to help Eve. He is the only other adult who believes Eve about the house being “occupied” by something other than the children. Mrs. Hogg, for the most part, remains untouched by the spirit and maintains the stereotypical “stiff upper lip” persona that Brits are most commonly associated with in that time period. She genuinely cares, but remains the calm, collected, unemotional voice of reason throughout the film, which has a common thread linking all four of the main characters to the Woman in Black: grieving. Burnstow, Parkins, and Edward are all coping with permanent loss of loved ones, with Mrs. Hogg, her sons and husband off fighting in the war, having the most experience with coping.
As the film progresses, Edward slowly comes under The Woman’s control as Eve searches the basement and the town for answers as to whom the Woman in Black is and what is motivating her to claim Edward. After discovering letters in the abandoned town, she soon realizes that the Woman is claiming children to be taken to the other side, preferably by the same fate as her son. With a twist to the ending, as with the first film, it is an unexpected but satisfying conclusion.
The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death is the type of film that will have viewers jumping out of their seats. Even though the scares are carefully placed by Harper, they simply work marvelously and effectively. Dark and dreary, yet beautifully textured, the film’s overall tone when coupled with the landscape and coloring is oppressive, as if the Woman was looming over the house whole time. With vivid cinematography and a tension building atmosphere, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death is a modern Gothic masterpiece. CrypticRock gives this film 3.5 of 5 stars.