Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

I have to admit, I've never seen a Harry Potter film, not have I read the books. And while that's enough to turn around 50% of you off all my reviews from now on, it's just never a series I had much interest in. One thing that put me off the movies was Daniel Radcliffe. I have no reason to dislike him I guess, but with the over saturation of his mug all over the telly for a decade as Harry Potter, I was just sick of him. So when I sat down to watch 2012's The Woman in Black, a film starring Radcliffe, I was expecting to hate it, or at least dislike him being in the film. I ended up neither hating it or resenting his presence in the film. In fact, he was absolutely fantastic in it, and it helped me realise that my dislike for all things Radcliffe was just me being a sour, salty shithead. Anyway, though I missed it in the cinema, I was dying to see the sequel to The Woman in Black. Sequels to superb films aren't always bad, right?

Directed by Tom Harper and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, which a complete failure in terms of horror. Angel of Death takes place during World War 2, and focuses on the character of Eve Parkins, a schoolteacher played wonderfully by Phoebe Fox. With the Blitz in full swing in London, Eve decides to evacuate her school children to the countryside town of Crythin Gifford. On the way there they come across Jeremy Irvine, a handsome pilot who tags along with Eve and her group of kids. With the village seemingly empty, the group reluctantly decides to stay at Eel Marsh House. This is of course the setting to the original film, and though it has been some time since the events in The Woman in Black, the ghost still remains trapped inside the house's walls. Though the sightings of the woman in black herself start out pretty harmless at first, it soon becomes clear that the ghost wants something... or someone.

Before I dig into it, it really needs to be said that the acting here across the board is actually pretty great. Though Phoebe Fox easily outshines everyone else in the film, the problems with Angel of Death never have to do with a  lack of acting talent. In fact, even some of the children in the film are pretty great, especially Oaklee Pendergast and Amelia Pidgeon. The failings of Angel of Death lie pretty much everywhere outside of the acting talent of the cast here, and because everyone here seems to be so wonderfully talented, the film ends up stinging a little as it's clearly wasting the excellent talent it so clearly has on tap.

The original The Woman in Black was a fantastically original film. Based upon the 1983 novel of the same name -and taking some cues from the stage version- it was a remarkably tense and unnerving film to watch. In the sea of utterly generic modern horror films The Woman in Black was chilling, tense and mostly relied on building up a deep sense of dread within the viewer. In fact, even before The woman in black herself appeared in the film, how to the film was shot, acted and paced created a bone terrifying atmosphere. When she did appear her moments didn't rely on typical jump scares either, but rather eerily constructed moments that stayed with the viewer even after the film ended. The worst part about Angel of Death is, in a complete contrast to The Woman in Black, it heavily uses jump scares. In fact, it over uses them often to the point of parody, as anyone with half a brain cell will often know exactly where the next jump scare will come from in a scene. So instead of watching the film and completely buying into the creepy world its concocting for you, you'll sit there and essentially try and work out where the jump scare will come from next. That's expected from most of the shitty horror films out there, but considering this is a sequel to one of the most original horror films ever made, it's not OK.

Angel of Death is not scary. Its overuse of jump scares literally kills any kind of dread it tries to set up. The saying “less is more” comes to mind here, and the first film completely understood this. Granted it showed the goods, but it still left something to the imagination, something for your brain to ponder on even after the credits rolled. That's what made The Woman in Black so good. Angel of Death leaves nothing to the imagination, ticks off all the horror clich├ęs, and ultimately makes for a hugely disappointing sequel to a great, great film. Like I said, the cast here are genuinely superb, so the blame rests solely on the direction and writing. It could have be something special, and I imagine the thought of what might have been will haunt me longer than the actual film ever will.

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death fails to impress. 2/5.


Denis Murphy

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