Welcome to January!
This is the time of year the studios release the films that they don’t have much faith in, hoping to make a little money while all of the critics and more discriminating audiences are distracted by the Oscar race. Typically, films are released in January that the studios are specifically hoping will be forgotten by June.
Case in point: the horror sequel The Woman In Black 2: The Angel of Death.
Now, as you all know, I love horror movies. It’s rare that I can’t find something to enjoy about a horror movie, whether it’s the atmosphere or the suspense or just the chance to do some old-fashioned screamed. Some of my favorite horror films have been the ones that — much like The Woman In Black 2 — were snarkily dismissed by most mainstream critics. And, needless to say, I’m a natural born contrarian. The lower a film’s score on Rotten Tomatoes, the more likely it is that I will find a reason to defend it.
Taking all of that into consideration, it’s hard for me to think of any film, horror or not, that has left me feeling as indifferent as The Woman In Black 2. I would not say that I was terribly impressed by the film but, at the same time, I didn’t hate it either. Instead, I felt it was an amazingly average film and I was just incredibly indifferent to the whole thing.
The Woman In Black 2: Angel of Death picks up 30 years after the end of the first Woman In Black. It’s World War II and German bombs are falling on London. A group of school children are evacuated to the countryside under the care and watch of two teachers, Eve (Phoebe Fox) and Jean (Helen McCrory). Naturally enough, they end up taking refuge in the abandoned Eel March House. The Woman in Black is still haunting the house and she’s determined to claim all of the children as her own.
While Jean refuses to accept that anything paranormal is happening at the house, Eve quickly comes to realize that they are not alone and that the Woman in Black seems to be particularly determined to claim young Edward (Oaklee Pendergast). Working with Harry (Jeremy Irvine), a pilot who is deathly afraid of water, Eve tries to save the children…
The Woman in Black 2 goes through all the motions. Floorboards creek. Doors open and slam shut on their own. The Woman in Black often appears standing in the background and occasionally jumps into the frame from out of nowhere while screaming. The film is darkly lit and there’s a lot of atmospheric shots of the fog covered moors.
But, ultimately, the film never really establishes an identity of its own. Instead, it feels like a collection of outtakes from every other haunted house film that has been released lately. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Woman in Black, I did think that it benefited from having a sympathetic lead character but the cast here seems oddly detached from the story that they’re supposed to be telling. You never believe in their characters and, as a result, you never really buy into any of the menace surrounding them.
And, the end result, is indifference.