The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

I know that January films have very little expected of them, but we can do better than this, can’t we? The Woman in Black wasn’t a good movie to begin with, and it really didn’t need a sequel. Now that we have a sequel, I find myself not fearing anything contained within it, save for the potential of yet another film. Sometimes — and by “sometimes” I mean “most of the time” — we don’t need to turn horror movies that make lots of money into franchises. The Woman in Black is one of these.

Set some decades after the last film, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death is set during World War II, and sees a bunch of school children taken from their homes to the mansion from the first film because their parents are either dead or couldn’t leave London. A schoolteacher, Eve (Phoebe Fox), and the headmistress, Jean (Helen McCrory) take less than a dozen children to this place, where we learn that they’ll be joined by similar groups in a week’s time. We’ve dropped Daniel Radcliffe and replaced him with children who are just as bad as he was in the first film — maybe even worse.

Things start going bump in the night, Eve starts seeing things, and one particular child, Edward (Oaklee Pendergast), seems particularly transfixed with “her,” whom the other characters don’t know but we do, since we saw the first movie. The titular Woman in Black is hanging around again, and soon enough she begins picking off children. I was kind of surprised by this. PG-13 horror movies often don’t let children die; this one kills at least two.

So, the Woman in Black kills people, makes things make noise, rocks a rocking chair, and unlocks doors. She also causes most — but not all — of the jump scares in the film. And, boy, are there a lot of jump scares. That’s the only way that director Tom Harper apparently knows how to scare us, so instead of creating a tense atmosphere or properly setting up frightening things, he just makes things go “boo” while quickly moving the camera or an object so that we get startled. They’re tiresome really early on.

Well, the music is also eerie at almost all times, because it’s a horror movie. If there’s silence, we know there’s a jump scare coming. If the music begins ramping up in volume and speed, we know a jump scare is coming. If it’s just sitting around being “creepy,” then we have to sit through a boring stretch. Far too much of the movie is spent exploring the house or looking at images we’ve already seen from the first film. The house really hasn’t changed in all this time, which is a shame, because what might have been interesting the first time — it wasn’t really too interesting, though — is dull this go-round.

We’re basically going through the motions that we’ve already done, although the protagonist this time around figures out the Woman in Black’s goal earlier on, and actually does try to escape. It’s a shame that it’s so boring. This is a basic ghost movie, but it’s handled so poorly that it’s shockingly dull. I wish I was joking that when I say I closed my eyes through parts of it that it was because I almost fell asleep, but that’s what happened.

Daniel Radcliffe starred in the first film, but he’s absent and not mentioned this time around. Phoebe Fox, who has a wonderful smile — that’s mentioned a whole lot in the movie, actually — replaces him in the leading role. She can demonstrate more than one emotion, so she’s an improvement. However, we also have to deal with a series of kids who can’t act, the worst of which is the one we focus on the most. I don’t know who cast Oaklee Pendergast, but he or she should be fired for doing so. He’s terrible and drags the whole production down with his every scene.

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death is a bad sequel to a bad movie that didn’t have any reason to be made, except that the first movie made an inexplicable amount of money. This one was created to cash in on that success. It’s really bad, really boring, and really not worth watching. It should have been a direct-to-DVD movie just so that it wouldn’t eat up a screen at your local cinema.

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