The Woman in Black: Angel of Death (2014)

Womaninblackangelofdeath

I was pleasantly surprised by Woman in Black: Angel of Death. The reviews have, by and large, been pretty awful, but I think they have also been unfair. Unlike most sequels, this one stands on its own and doesn’t require you to have seen the first film but, at the same time, it’s not just a remake either. This time, the film is set during WW2 with a group of evacuees and a couple of their teachers being sent to the house that dominates the first outing. Whilst there, they meet an airman and the younger teacher starts a tentative relationship with him. At the same time, mysterious things start happening in the house.

Angel of Death isn’t going to win any awards for originality, but it’s not a copycat effort either. The first film seemed overlong to me, and strangely un-cinematic. Despite a very good performance from Daniel Radcliffe, a film where a guy walks around a house holding a candle for nearly two hours just isn’t very exciting, despite the fact it was well made and had more gravitas than this second effort. Where this second film wins out is by having more characters, and yet not enough for the house to feel occupied as such. The greater number of characters allows relationships to develop between them, and this is, after all, something that most films rely upon. The stark, dark, cinematography of the first film, where many scenes were drained of colour, is retained here but the greater use of dialogue means it isn’t quite as foreboding. This sequel might not be as “worthy” as the original but, to me, it’s more entertaining.

Indeed, the film zips along and is over and done with in ninety minutes, and yet still manages to be atmospheric. But it’s not without faults. Phoebe Fox is superb in the lead role of the young teacher, but Jeremy Irvine, as the young airman, seems to be literally on autopilot. That’s not his fault – his part is woefully underwritten and he has very little to work with. One can only wonder what attracted him to the part in the first place. He is as charming and charismatic as ever, but that doesn’t make up for the clichéd dialogue he is saddled with, and his “big scene” about two thirds of the way through the film is, frankly, pretty awful. The final third of the film seems much more of a genuine climax than in the first film, with a couple of impressive sequences packing quite a punch.

Yes, there’s no doubt that we’ve been here before, not just with Woman in Black itself, but with other period ghost stories. But the best horror films are often those that stick to a formula and make sure they do it well – and that’s pretty much what this film does. The atmosphere is well-sustained throughout, and there are some genuine jump-scares too if that’s your thing. If falls down in the sometimes clichéd script, but it’s entertaining enough and certainly not the dire outing that some reviewers are leading us to believe.

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