After the success of the film adaptation of the book and stage play The Woman in Black back in 2012, New Year’s Day sees that ghostly figure return for more. This time set during the Second World War, with Eel Marsh House now being used as a home to refugee children leaving the blitz behind, teacher Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox) notices something spooky about the old house and the children once they inhabit it. With the help of fellow teacher Jean Hogg (Helen McCrory) and RAF pilot Harry (Jeremy Irvine) she must save the children from a fate worse than the war – themselves.
I saw the stage production of The Woman in Black (still running at the Fortune Theatre) in 2010, and was absolutely blown away by how something so simple could instil such fear in me. When the film was released I, like the dutiful Daniel Radcliffe film I am, went along to see if this could scare me as much as those two men in a theatre. It was a decent enough attempt, if a bit cheesy in places and making me jump more than making me really scared down to my bones.
The Woman in Black: Angel of Death on the other hand, seems to rely solely on making its audience jump and the creepy face of a woman covered in makeup. Old ground from the first film is covered once more – why the ghost is sticking around, what happened in that house all those years ago – so that anyone already aware of the story is bored for a large chunk of the film. The relocation of the plot to during the second world war seems like the perfect opportunity for some kind of analogy, about the horror of war and what lies in wait for these children after it has finished, with the cold war and the threat of nuclear annihilation which will no doubt haunt their lives as they grow up. Instead what we get is something lazy, and which, at 98 minutes, feels far too long. Even the cast, made up of the indomitable Helen McCrory and the great Phoebe Fox can’t save the poor script.
Despite this however there are a few nice visual moments, with the depiction of the Woman in Black varying interestingly throughout the film. But most of all what The Woman in Black: Angel of Death gives us another lazily scripted ‘horror’ film designed purely to make audiences jump, with underwritten characters and laughable moments of tension.
The Woman in Black: Angel of Death is in cinemas New Years Day.