Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Woman in Black 2: Review

I have a soft spot for period horror movies, especially since they often feature old haunted houses and restless spirits. Add an English accent and it practically earns a free pass. That said, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death is a good but not great follow-up to the original film. This is a beautifully filmed, unnerving, and spooky return to Eel Marsh House but unfortunately lacks the gravitas, pace, and a compelling story to satisfy expectations.

The actors are charming and the performances are solid, yet it was difficult to be fully invested in the lead characters plight. The writing left their actions and many unnecessary backstories stranded with too many leaps in reason and direction. Very little made sense including what may have been a reveal in the third act. Ultimately the storytelling ends up being as murky as the waters that fill the causeway.

It was clever to set this film 40 years after the first and use WWII as the backdrop. There was a possibility to explore themes about war, loss, and living in fear although that didn't happen. At one point the action leaves the dreaded house and what could have been a grand opportunity to springboard the story simply fades into the mist. Speaking of action, this story is a real slow burn and not altogether successful in holding the viewers attention. A great horror film knows how to ratchet up the tension and release it at the right moment. Here we are treated to desperate startle scares that cheapen the otherwise perfect ambience and mood it winningly creates.

To their credit, the filmmakers showed some backbone in allowing the woman in black to fulfill her curse without wincing – even the most hardened viewer will find these scenes disturbing. The movie needed more of that kind of audacity, and a willingness to explore the darkness of this malevolent spirit head on. Nonetheless, compared to other horror movie dreck in wide-release this old-fashioned spook show might be a good way to kill a Sunday afternoon – if you keep expectations in check.



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