When a group of children are evacuated to Eel Marsh mansion they discover the kiddie killing harridan is still there.
It was way back in 1935 that the little seen film (and if you have watched it you’ll understand why it’s little seen) ‘The Woman in Red’ began the vogue for such film titles giving us Gig Young in The Woman in White and next year we have Katie Holmes in The Woman in Gold. But since Barbara Stanwyck’s dalliance in red we had to wait a further 49 years for Kelly LeBrock to wear the same colour in the same titled film.
But 2012’s ‘The Woman in Black’ was a different matter with the Hammer version of the iconic book going on to become the biggest grossing British horror film ever. No studio is going to sit on its cash cow without trying to milk it and Hammer are no different and so three years after the original film we once again revisit ‘The Woman in Black: Angel of Death’.
Set 40 years later during World War 2 the haunted mansion is now a home for children evacuated from London with relative newcomer Phoebe Fox in the lead role chaperoning a group of children at the house only for the Woman in Black to rear her haggard face and continue her vendetta against the children with tragic results.
The first film was always going to be a difficult act to follow with Daniel Radcliffe pulling in his Harry Potter fans it was really more of a directors film with James Watkins skillfully framing his shots to capture blink and you’ll miss it apparitions and deep focus to draw your eye to the back of shots establishing a growing sense of unease. With Tom Harper now in the director’s seat he’s fallen back on shocks rather than chills to get his scares – some of which are effective but many are well signposted through familiarity and using shock for shocks sake. Which is a shame as Harper is a highly competent and accomplished director and on occasion orchestrates some very effective sequences developing an impending sense of dread as the children are lured to their doom.
Whereas the first film suffered from Radcliffe being too young for the part he played here the leads Phoebe Fox and Jeremy Irvine are just too bland and most disappointing of all is Helen McCrory, a magnificent actress and infuses her character with an effective iciness as the children’s headmistress but is left with little to do except be sceptical until finally convinced that something malevolent is seeing off the children. But it’s the children who really are the stars here and Harper has cast well and elicited some great performances from them with the oddly named Oaklee Prendergast most convincing as the boy withdrawing into his own world ever more afraid at what is going on around him.
With an awkward and not wholly convincing twist ending this will almost inevitably lead to a another film and it’s long overdue for a decent UK horror franchise but like most rock bands struggling with second album syndrome this suffers the same and whilst in no way a bad film it relies a little too much on shocks than chills for its thrills.
Words: Simon Hooper