The Woman in Black: Angel of Death
UK National release:January 1st Rating:(12A)Runtime: 98 mins
Director:Tom Harper Writer:Jon Croker Cast:Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Adrian Rawlins, Leanne Best, Ned Dennehy, Oaklee Pendergast.
Admittedly this second chapter in the Hammer Horror series of The Woman in Black, loses some of its appeal without the draw of Daniel Radcliffe. A disappointing sequel to a lacklustre predecessor, Angel of Death is mediocre at best. This isn’t a criticism of the actors, director or even the film in its entirety: but to even create a second film without really having much else to say does not a good film make…
Set against the dark backdrop of a the second World War we meet Eve (Phoebe Fox), the kind-mannered schoolteacher with an impenetrable sadness behind her gentle smile and prim exterior. Joined by her stern and altogether dismissive superior, Jean (Helen McCrory), they guide safe passage out of London to the countryside with a group of child evacuees.
Despite a gloomy journey into the perilous marsh land which set the scene for the first film, the group end up in Eel Marsh Manor – now decrepit and evil-looking than ever – creepy nursery from part one intact and all.
Whilst there, everything that should go bump in the night certainly does: floorboards; doors; floating silhouetted women and children – this film isn’t short of a few jumpy scenes that add almost nothing more than cheap thrills to the story. But there is only one thing the Woman in Black wants – to feed off the fear and misery of others (not for nothing, all the central characters are battling each of their own personal grievances) and add to her perturbing collection of deceased children.
One child in particular has caught her ghostly eye – Edward. Newly orphaned and as a result unable to communicate unless putting pencil to paper. However Eva too holds a special affinity for the boy, intertwined with her own personal loss and a deeper desire to mother him, she does everything in her power to keep Edward from the clutches of the wailing woman in black (which is more than i can say for the other victims in her care).
With the help of a
man troubled war pilot, Harry (brooding expert, Jeremy Irvine), they must come to terms with their own personal wars (see – it’s not always about you Hitler) in order to save the children and themselves.
This is barely hammer horror at all, but director Tom Harper has an exceptional eye for detail and creating atmosphere. Admittedly it works best when tracking characters along the ruined corridors of the haunted house, or the stunningly beautiful but ominous marsh landscape before it. The costumes are immaculate, nothing is left to chance when it comes to authenticating the look and feel of the locations and time in which the story is set. However the barely-there script and weak pay off from what could have been a potentially decent film combining multiple storylines from three or even four characters, makes this film a little boring and misguided.
Fox is a superb beguiling actress, who manages to carry the film quite impressively despite being a relatively unknown to the big screen; Irvine compliments her well as their flirtations play out during a chance meeting in a ‘strangers on a train’ type sequence. Young newcomer Oaklee Pendergast is uncommonly cute and forthcoming as the wide eyed chubby cheeked orphan at the centre of the story; having said that both Irvine’s and Helen McCrory’s sour faced head teacher Jane are woefully underused, which is surprising seeing as they’re likely to be two of the strongest castings on the film. However the tepid script suffers in favour of beautifully composed shots and shock factors and even then those become predictable and tiresome.