It’s been a short 3 years since Daniel Radcliffe began the almost impossible task of shaking off the jibes of ‘He’ll only ever be Harry Potter’ by taking the leading role in the gothic horror, The Woman In Black. And while the film wasn’t particularly successful in achieving a complete reinvention of the actor, it was a largely enjoyable picture. The same cannot be said for the sequel however, which is essentially a reheating of its predecessor, minus the few elements that made it watchable.
Starring Phoebe Fox in her first lead role, WIB2 takes place 40 years after the events of the first movie. When bombs start raining down on London during the Blitz of World War 2, teacher Eve Parkins (Fox) joins her schoolchildren and the headmistress Jean Hogg (another Potter alumni, Helen McCroy, who played Narcissa Malfoy) to evacuate them to the countryside town of Crythin Gifford and, more specifically, Eel Marsh House. Of course, their arrival awakens the houses’ resident spirit once again, and Eve must put aside her personal demons to overcome the evil of the Woman in Black.
It’s all a well trodden narrative path, and Woman In Black 2 doesn’t have a shred of originality to offer. The scares are cheap, tension is non-existent and characterisation is hollow. What’s even more insulting is the horror moments from the first are the ‘high’ points of its lacklustre sequel: the banging rocking chair with no-one sitting in it, the age old ‘scary face flash on the screen’ trick that’s been around since the dawn of the internet, and so on. It suffers from the same troubles that plagued the Amityville Horror remake, in that there’s no substantial build up to any of the jumps, and they are simply silent moments followed by overly loud bangs – and that’s the extent of the scares.
The ‘Woman’ in question has lost her eerie aura too: since her face was revealed in the first movie, she just doesn’t have any hold over the audience any more. Her motives for killing the children continue to be flimsy, and the demises of a select few children are unimaginative and dull. Screenwriter Jon Croker also unsuccessfully attempts to make us care about the characters, but their stories are so familiar that it’s difficult to invest any emotion. Fox does her best with what she has to work with, while Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) looks and acts achingly generic as the troubled (but dashing, obviously) pilot Harry Burnstow. It doesn’t help that his writing is as creaky as the doors in the house, with lines like “Rooms don’t get sad – people do” actually being used as dialogue.
As a last resort, random midnight pick on Netflix, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death barely scrapes through as passable entertainment. But for a night out at the cinema, the amount of money you’d spend on tickets and snacks is far more terrifying than anything in the film.