The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death isn’t so much a bad horror film as it is a lazy one. As a sequel to the atmospheric, moody 2012 original film starring Daniel Radcliffe, it’s an underwhelming effort with few original scares. Instead, it falls into the belittling trap of amusing jump scares rather than long-lasting impressions. The long, controlled takes from the original are gone in favor of overdone special effects, which is particularly off-putting considering the use of new locales and characters. Director Tom Harper is capable and captures the feel of the original film’s world, yet the writing is singular and relies on clichéd archetypes and cheap developments. Despite carrying an undoubtedly cheaper price tag, the film looks largely impressive and utilizes virtually the same techniques as the first entry. But the convoluted sequel, overdone title and all, cannot overcome its superior predecessor’s establishment.
The film centers on Eve Parkins (Phoebe Cox), a woman living in World War II England under the threat of German bombings and a struggling work life. Her boss, Jean (Helen McCrory), informs her that one of the new children under their care is an orphan. His parents were living in one of the houses bombed and he needs care; his name is Edward (Oaklee Pendergast). Due to their workplace and care being under duress by the ensuing war, they must head out of the mainland in favor of a more isolated area. The Eel Marsh House, the scene of the first film, is the obvious choice. Taking place forty years after the events of the 2012 original, the story involves their journey across the obvious tide-plagued path to the creepily unkempt house. Eve runs into a pilot named Harry (Jeremy Irvine) on the train ride there, and they kindle a bond as bad things happen in the house and they realize that, “Oh shit, we should totally get out of here!”
Horror films as of late have fallen into the trap of recycling old scares without infusing them with any new life. That runs rampant in Angel of Death, a sequel constantly shadowed by its scarier, more impressionable predecessor. There is nothing new within the house that the audience hasn’t seen before; the idea that the titular Woman can do anything new is foolish. The performances all around don’t help matters, nor does the self-serious narrative. If a story takes place during World War II, there should be more narrative consequence behind that creative decision. Instead, it feels promising in the beginning but never realized. Inventive scares start to emerge in an airstrip near the climax of the film, primarily because the story strays away from the familiar. That’s few and far between, though, as the film opts for a crazy, nonsensical conclusion that promises more films rather than a stronger conclusion to the narrative at hand. It’s tired, lazy filmmaking.
Grade: ★★ (out of 5)