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Woman in Black 2, The: Angel of Death


Stars: Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Adrian Rawlins, Leanne Best, Ned Dennehy, Oaklee Pendergast

Director: Tom Harper

There was a time long, long ago when Hammer Films, whom Terence Fisher had scared into stardom in colour with 1957’s The Curse of Frankenstein, stood for the best in British horror and made genre stars of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

The original Hammer horrors died with the embarrassing 1979 remake of Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. The name was revived for 2010’s pointless Wake Wood (filmed in 2008 and released in 2011). While Dracula successfully rose from the grave in 1968, the new stillborn Hammer Films did not. Let Me In was a pallid shadow of the original Scandinavian shocker Let the Right One In, The Resident was a weak offering with a strong cast, a 21-year-old Daniel Radcliffe was memorably unconvincing as a harrowed widower in the bland adaption of the still-running-on-the-London-stage shocker The Woman in Black, after which came the eminently forgettable The Quiet Ones.

Now comes a second ghost story, scripted by Jon Croker, working on a story credited to The Woman in Black’s Susan Hill, thus allowing Hammer to cosy up to the box office using ‘Woman in Black’ as a sales aid.

It’s 40 years since Radclife’s close encounters of the ghostly kind. Now it’s the 1940s and rotting and dilapidated Eel Marsh House has been chosen to house eight children, led by young teacher Phoebe Fox and stern head teacher Helen McCrory who have evacuated from bomb-ridden London.

Before long adults and children are being terrorized by the ghost of the Woman in Black, leaving RAF pilot Jeremy Irvine and Fox to save the show…

Sadly, for me the show couldn’t be saved. Tom Harper’s uninteresting direction fails to overcome a cliché-ridden leaden screenplay with its predictable, not really scary shocks and chills and dull leading performances.

Result? A deeply disappointing would-be shocker that fails to shock and doesn’t really earn its ‘15’ certificate. In the States it was rated PG-13.

Hammer is still waiting for talents who can open its coffin and reanimate its corpse.

(Incidentally, the British posters carry a ludicrous line of critical praise claiming filmgoers who suffer the film will not sleep for weeks, a phrase even more unlikely than what happens on screen).

I sat through the film twice to make sure my first unhappy impression of it was right. It was. I’d recommend sleeping through The Woman in Black 2; that might even work for insomniacs.

Alan Frank

UK/Canada 2015. UK Distributor: EntertainmentOne. Colour.
98 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 17 Jan 2015