The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2015)
★★★ / ★★★★
Following the bombings in 1941 London, Headmistress Hogg (Helen McCrory) and Ms. Parkins (Phoebe Fox) take their eight remaining schoolchildren to the country to keep them safe. During their first night in the Eel Marsh House, quite a drive to the nearest populated area, Ms. Parkins suspects that they are not living there alone. She claims she has seen a woman in the cellar although they never get a chance to speak. Meanwhile, one of the children, recently orphaned Edward (Oaklee Pendergast), captures the attention of a particular presence inside a room that is supposed to be locked.
“The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death,” based on the screenplay by Jon Croker and directed by Tom Harper, is both an enjoyable and a slightly disappointing horror picture. While it does not have very many scares that truly get under the skin and inside the mind, its images are so alluring at times that it is like peering into an old, worn down painting. As a visual experience, I admired it. As a horror film, it is engaging enough but it offers nothing particularly special.
Would-be love stories within this genre are usually of a big annoyance to me because many of them tend to be syrupy, forced, the actors devoid of chemistry. Here, an exception can be found because of two reasons. First, the romance is not central to the plot so when it comes around it is most welcome. Second, Ms. Perkins and the pilot she meets on the train, Harry (Jeremy Irvine), are highly attractive together. Fox and Irvine play their characters with genuine sweetness and empathy, not wooden caricatures of two characters who just so happen to be attracted to one another in a horror movie.
Visually, scenes that take place indoors and outdoors are equally beautiful. The house is so worn down and dark inside that one can believe no one has set foot there in years. It is the opposite of scary movies that look and feel like they are shot in a studio. Here, one is inspired to explore through the dusty bookshelves, piles of rubbles, holes on the floor. It is a creepy place, to be sure, but it is also inviting. We get the impression that if we did get a chance to look through the house more carefully, we would get a pretty good idea about who used to live there and how they lived.
The perimeter of the Eel Marsh House inspires one to either start cleaning and pulling out the weeds or playing tag and hide-and-seek. The cemetery looks appropriately haunted. while the marsh that surrounds feels cold and unfriendly. Cinematographer George Steel establishes the place to command a presence.
The scares are sometimes weak, many of them relying on things jumping suddenly in front of the camera, accompanied by loud music. I preferred it when the camera dares to sit still while the character is standing on the foreground, the shot not at all trying too hard to get us to pay attention on the background… until something begins to move.
A surprising element comes in the form of the paranormal entity named in the title. Mainly, the story is not about her. Rather, she functions more as a catalyst when it comes to our protagonist being forced to deal with and move on from something that happened to her when she was younger.