The drive home in the snow was scarier than this entire movie. 2015 continues the current trend that the first official horror release of the New Year is a really bad one. The Devil Inside (2012), Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013), Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014), and now The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, a film that is really nothing more than a direct to video quality sequel with what appears to be a high enough production value to warrant a theatrical run. And are you really that surprised that I hated it? It’s the same shitty formula that’s been tirelessly made again and again hoping that this time people might actually get scared, the equivalent of someone expecting different results by repeating the same mistakes.
The movie starts and obviously Daniel Radcliffe and Ciaran Hinds from The Woman in Black have not returned. Instead, we have a new story set 40 years after the original film featuring a new protagonist named Eve (Phoebe Fox). If there is one thing I liked about this movie, it was Phoebe Fox’s acting. She put a lot of effort into her performance, far more than what the film deserved. Eve is a teacher who along with her headmistress takes a party of school children away from war torn London to the desolate Eel Marsh house where the group hopes to find safety. Clearly none of the characters did any research on the Eel Marsh house or they would have realized children have a tendency to die there, not to mention the nearby village of Cryphin Gifford has been inexplicably abandoned. This is a stupid premise that uses World War II as an excuse to lure a group of disposable characters, most of them children, to a place that would at the very least have been universally condemned after the events of the first film.
The premise may be bad but the presentation of it is even worse for one very simple technique: jump scares. The Woman in Black 2 is all fake jump scares that are completely obvious and predictable. An early example would be Eve looking through a window. It’s framed so that she is at the right side and the window is in plain view on the left. As the camera starts to pull in, both my mom and I started counting down the jump scare in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1; and boom, a face appears in the window accompanied by a loud noise. Seriously, have studio horror directors just completely stopped trying? Similar scenes continue to happen throughout the movie involving children jumping into the frame unexpectedly, or a bird flying into a wall, or Eve having a bad dream. Let’s make one thing perfectly clear: JUMP SCARES ARE NOT SCARY! All they do is deflate the tension and work against the movie’s attempt to build fear.
For instance, above the children’s dormitory is a hole in the ceiling. One of the children starts to hear sounds coming from the room above. The scene cuts to a shot positioned through the hole in the ceiling where the camera peers down at the child. The next shot is from the child’s point of view looking up at the hole. This is a creepy moment because you get the impression that something is staring back at the child but you can’t see anything. This builds suspense. It creates a sense of mystery. It’s encouraging you to imagine what could be looking at the child, which is way creepier than if you were to see the actual thing. But the scene is then ruined by another kid jumping into the frame, screaming and wearing a gas mask accompanied by a loud bang. Now guess what? You no longer care about the scene. You may have been jolted for about half a second because of the volume suddenly going from level 2 to level 10, but the creep factor is gone. This is the central reason why The Woman in Black 2 isn’t even the slightest bit scary. Think of yourself being in a room working on something and I came up behind you and yelled “Boo!” You wouldn’t be scared so much as annoyed that I interrupted what you were doing. Now imagine me doing that every five minutes. That’s how frustrating I find this technique. Great horror works by building tension, and no film can successfully build tension with jump scares.
Yet another thing that doesn’t build tension is when you have incredibly stupid characters. Honestly, who pursues a dark shadow alone into a dark cellar with writing in blood on the walls and starts calling out “hello” every few seconds? When kids have just died around you, who would dismiss someone’s explanation as being nothing more than paranoia? And who would lock a bunch of children in a bomb shelter telling them to close their eyes or they will be taken by an evil spirit? That’s just asking for someone to go, “I can’t keep them closed,” opening her eyes and being face to face with said spirit.
Angel of Death has no other reason to exist than to capitalize on the success of The Woman in Black. It even feels like a movie where an original script was taken and retooled to tie into the original film, since the story itself just rehashes the same mythology. Don’t bother seeing this movie. Just skip it. It’s stupid. It’s lame. It’s predictable. Even if you liked The Woman in Black, which I did because that movie knew how to build suspense and kept jump scares to a minimum, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death is not worth your time.
DIRECTOR: Tom Harper / WRITER: Jon Croker / STARRING: Phoebe Fox / YEAR: 2015 / GENRE: Horror / COUNTRY: UK / RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes