Writer: Jon Croker
Cast: Phoebe Fox, Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine
Running time: 98mins
The lowdown: When a British horror movie does £20m, a sequel is frighteningly inevitable. The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death arrives minus star Daniel Radcliffe, but with an intriguing new story concerning children evacuated to the countryside during World War 2. Unfortunately, they arrive at the most dangerous house in England, residence of one particularly stern matron. Phoebe Fox impresses in the Radcliffe “must-solve-the-mystery” role and twists on the WiB formula are about enough to justify a return journey to this Hammer house of horrors.
The full verdict: Whatever form it takes – first rate novel, hit stage play, terrifying 1989 TV movie, crowd pleasing 2012 big screen shocker – Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black is a standalone tale.
But, funereally attired matron Jennet Humfrye now joins the long line of classic Horror icons who returned from the undead when audiences were left hungry for more.
The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, scripted by Jon Croker from a story dreamt up by Hill, has a killer idea, cannily trading on a continued fascination with World War 2 and the curiously underused plot device of wartime evacuees.
Kindly schoolteacher Eve (the winning Fox) and stern headmistress Hogg (McCrory, dependable as ever) accompany a class of sad-faced children to the countryside, ending up at the dilapidated Eel Marsh House. But, rotting floorboards and draughts are the least of their worries as odd occurrences set in from the very first night.
Tweaking Woman in Black mythology to offer something new, this time children are not doomed to perish in freak accidents if the Woman in Black is glimpsed, rather she possesses them so they unwittingly expire by their own hand.
Cue several sequences well-realised by director Tom Harper of children blankly committing suicide (guaranteeing this film a 15 certificate, not the surprise 12 the 2012 film received).
A third act relocation to an airfield (courtesy of Jeremy Irvine’s dashing, grounded pilot) and a genuinely spooky encounter in a bomb proof bunker also work to reduce the deja-vu.
But, Harper is too reliant on cattle-prod jump moments for this to be anything more than good fun, and Croker’s script essentially restages the climax to the Radcliffe movie, which itself seemed a rip-off of the Japanese classic Ring.
Hard to imagine this repeating the financial success of its predecessor, meaning the Woman in Black may succumb to that most effective of movie deaths – poor box office.