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The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

Released 1 January 2014
Director Tom Harper

Phoebe Fox, Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine, Oaklee Prendergast, Ned Dennehy, Leanne Best
Writer(s) Jon Croker

Tobin Armbrust, Ben Holden, Richard Jackson, Simon Oakes
Origin United Kingdom
Running Time 98 minutes
Genre Drama, horror, thriller
Rating 15A

Back in black.

I saw the stage-play of The Woman in Black at an impressionably young age and the deeply atmospheric staging and that final terrifying ghostly image has stuck with me ever since. When the newly resurrected Hammer took the project to the screen in 2012, my initial misgivings were overturned by a wonderfully creepy, beautifully rendered re-telling of the story of terror and grief. The sight of a sequel looming over the horizon filled me with further misgivings and unfortunately this time around they have proven, for the most part, to be well deserved.

Angel of Death takes place during World War 2. Bombings in London have forced thousands of the capital’s children to flee to the countryside, including a group led by stern headmistress Jean Hogg (Helen McCrory) and the young and idealistic teacher Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox). Unfortunately for all involved, they are offered Eel Marsh House as their shelter, a place still haunted by the malevolent spirit of Jennet Humfrye, the eponymous Woman in Black. As the children begin to act strangely, Eve becomes convinced that there is something not quite right about their temporary home and begins to investigate its dark history.

On the face of it, Angel of Death is far from a disaster. Director Tom Harper, whose extensive TV CV includes Peaky Blinders and Misfits, does an excellent job of maintaining the glossy atmospherics of the first film and has a good eye for framing a visual scare. McCrory and Parkins are both effective in their roles, the former giving great stiff upper lip while the latter is a likably plucky sort. As for the children, well, children are always creepy. That’s perhaps where my misgivings about the film begin; wringing a few scares out of a creepy house populated by some creepy children is like shooting fish in a barrel. The film did make me jump several times but no amount of scares can overcome the fact that the biggest spectre hanging over this film is that of deja vu. As Eve Parkins begins her investigation into Eel Marsh House, I wished I could tap her on the shoulder and point out that we’ve heard all of this before.

All in all, Angel of Death is effectively scary but if you’ve seen the first film, the fact that this sequel hits so many of the same narrative beats can’t be ignored. This is a nicely made chiller but is nowhere near as memorable as the first outing for The Woman in Black.

- Linda O’Brien