Title: Woman In Black: The Angel Of Death
Director: Tom Harper
Major Players: Helen McCrory, Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Irvine
Out Of Five: 2.5
I’ve never been a massive horror fan and it’s a long time since I indulged. Chances are it was The Shining, so at least it was a superior one, but I like to keep an open mind so when Woman In Black:The Angel Of Death came across my desk, my reaction was why not?
In hindsight, it should’ve been “why?”. Not just why see it, but why make it in the first place – although we all know the answer to that one. The original Woman In Black was a huge success, on both the big screen and the stage, where it’s still running. Money rules.
So, we’re back at spooky old Eel Marsh House, 40 years after the events of the first film. It’s World War II and a group of children, accompanied by two teachers, have been evacuated there during the blitz. There’s nowhere else for them to go and the place is completely dilapidated. Soon after they arrive, strange things start to happen, at the centre of which is one of the children, the silent Edward. And then one of the other boys dies. What they don’t realise is that their arrival has woken up a previous occupant ……
Ghost stories are a traditional favourite at Christmas, but this comes out on New Year’s Day, so somebody’s timing is a bit out. Which should tell you something straight away.
It’s all incredibly predictable, signposting the storyline as it plods along. True, there are some jump-out-of-your-seat moments that actually work, but they come early on. After that, you’ve learnt that director Tom Harper builds up to them in the same way every time: he ramps up the suspense so that you think a shock is coming, it doesn’t – and then the next moment it does! Which is fine for the first few times but, after that, you know exactly what’s going to happen and it becomes decidedly tedious. Worse still, some of them are downright funny – the still above is one of them and it made me laugh out loud. There’s more to a proper horror film than a few scenes that make your heart jump, but that’s all this one has to offer.
The territory is the same as the original – same house, same deserted village, same marshes, and so it goes on. Nothing new is brought to the story this time round and the World War II setting is just an excuse to send some more people out to the house – although why such a ruin would be used to house evacuated children is beyond me. And to top it off, there’s an abundance of horror clichés, for starters the silent child, Edward, who is in shock following the death of his parents in an air raid. Then there’s the room at the end of the corridor – think The Shining – which is supposed to be kept locked so that nobody goes inside, yet it somehow manages to have an open door at will.
If you manage to stay awake for the whole film, you’ll notice some decidedly dubious editing going on, which isn’t only irritating – it’s just sloppy. Take one instance. The young teacher at the heart of the story, Miss Parkins (Phoebe Fox) is out wandering in the mists on the moors – never a good idea – and falls down a steep ledge. Next moment, she’s back at the house. How on earth did she manage that? We’ve no idea. And there’s plenty more like that.
The better known names on the cast list are simply wasted here. Jeremy Irvine showed what he’s made of in The Railway Man but he doesn’t stand a chance here as a fighter pilot, who somehow manages to get tangled up in the whole convoluted mess. He does his best, but it’s a hopeless case. And Helen McCrory, who’s been wowing them on stage at The National Theatre as Medea, is given little more than a caricature to work with, a headteacher married to a brigadier.
Woman In Black:The Angel Of Death doesn’t cut it at any level, as a horror, shocker or anything else. What’s really depressing is that it leaves the door wide open for a third Woman In Black. Somebody needs to tell her not to bother.
Woman In Black:The Angel Of Death opens around the UK on 1 January.