Woman in Black 2 Review

 

 

Overall rating: 3 Stars 2/5
Story :1.5 Stars
Acting :2 Stars
Cinematography :1.5 Stars
Visual Effects :2 Stars

 

In 2012 director James Watkins created an eerie thriller under the banner of Hammer Film Productions.  Daniel Radcliffe was cast in the lead role as a widowed lawyer, Arthur Kipps, who was assigned to sort through the affairs of the recently deceased Alice Drablow, owner of “Eel Marsh House”.  There within the secrets of the estate he discovered and was tormented by the ghostly presence referenced in the film’s title, The Woman in Black.

The film was a springboard both for the new director and for Radcliffe, particularly due to Daniel’s need to separate himself from the image of what had made him a household name since he was 11, Harry Potter.  As his talent proves in all of his roles, he was able to succeed and really delivered a strong performance which helped audiences see he wasn’t a one trick pony.  With a production budget around 17 million to produce the film ended up its run in theaters with a worldwide return of near 128 million, very profitable for a genre film.

With a strong visual signature and eerie environments the film delivered a compelling story about a vengeful ghost and her bitterness which drove her insane. So naturally, true to Hollywood’s model, if a small film can make money of this scale a sequel must occur.  As we also know to be true, sometimes this isn’t for the best.

This brings us now to 2014 and the sequel, Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death.  40 years have passed since the first haunting and now the house returns to center stage during WWII acting as the shelter for a group of evacuated children from London.  Without Daniel Radcliffe in the lead the weight and emotional heft of the film is solely on the shoulder of Phoebe Fox in the role of Eve Parkins.

Eve has an immediate attachment to a young boy named Edward, who lost his parents in the recent bombings making him an instant orphan.  The aftermath of such tragedy has left him speechless which is a nice touch to add the creepy factor to his written messages later on.  In typical horror fashion nothing is every as it seems and even the pleasantly sweet Eve has a past she’d rather not talk about which in turn reanimates the ghostly specter to bring her twisted judgement upon the children and Eve.

Although the plot delivers some interesting moments of dread the majority of the film left me asking more questions and getting frustrated about missed opportunities to deliver a solid sequel.  This film had an identity crisis nearly as soon as it began.  First and foremost it suffered from a trapping in horror sequels, migrating away from the original characterization of the villain.  Ask Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers how it affected them and they’ll tell you it weakened them.

Freddy became a wise cracking jokester, Jason an unstoppable demigod and Mike ended up just being a lost confused baby brother.  These embodiments of pure evil were deconstructed over several films and lost their identities; our poor Woman in Black didn’t even make it to her second outing.

Without getting too far into spoiling plots for those who haven’t seen the films, the original brilliantly setup an angry spirit obsessed with the death of her son.  Whenever she was seen, death followed her and it always was directed at the children in terrifying ways.  Once the first film came to its conclusion there was a sense, given by the clever storytelling, she may have done a favor for the tormented lead. I personally believe she did not, however they both were satisfied, which is completely different.  Each character stayed the course true to their purpose.

This notion of chivalry was taken as a masthead to go headstrong into the sequel.  Since when did our lady of death care about avenging or is that merely one characters conclusion?  Regardless it appears to be the take away from the film.  When you sit through the exposition and you’ll ask things like “why does she care what you did?” and “why does it even matter he’s afraid of the water?” or “why haven’t we seen her yet?”.  These come to mind along with the low grade sets as this film budgeted around 1 million dollars (but it did earn 27 million worldwide).  I wonder if they couldn’t afford the hair and makeup kit needed to show us our gruesome lady.  Instead they tease with fingers, fast glances and ridiculous looking CGI.

Sets are small and confined, but not necessarily to impose the notion of claustrophobia.  It’s more akin to budget restraints even down to the loss of details within the rooms and corridors.  Even though it could be explained after 40 years someone cleaned out the possessions of the previous owner, it still doesn’t give any of the previous films feelings it should have about making even the house feel as though something could come alive at any time.  Everything is empty, save the basement which actually has the best scene in the whole film.

So you go from the train, then bus, then the house, and occasional outdoor shot before the climax takes place in a bunker and ends in the water.  I have pity for the cinematographer as I’m sure he’s capable of more than this.  The ending is a mess, literally as I couldn’t even see for several moments what was happening due to how dark it was (sometimes a problem throughout the film) and then when I did put it all together I began laughing.  It was probably not the reaction it was supposed to produce.

To wrap things up, was the film good or bad?  Yes, it was pretty bad but believe it or not I’ve seen worse.  The setup was perfect to lead into a cat and mouse game with Eve versus the Woman in Black but lost all luster due to poor structure, confusing character motivation, poor set design, and overall budget restrictions which suppressed the main villain from even appearing in her own movie.    Even the house was disappointing as it used to be a big scary place before it was reduced to a few uninteresting empty rooms.

Scares should be delivered and earned based on the terror on display, not by cheap jump scares orchestrated by loud audio and things popping into view.  This movie only succeeds to scare if you jump easily as it is loaded with these, otherwise you might find the film slow and ultimately unrewarding.