Monday, 13 April 2015

April Apparitions: The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2014)

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2014)
Director: Tom Harper
Starring: Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine, and Phoebe Fox
Running Time: 98 min

  I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the remake of "The Woman in Black" with Harry Potter, I mean, umm, Daniel Potter was.  Hammer films was able to keep the same tone and spookiness with that one and I'm hoping that they will be able to continue that creepy magic with this one.  I like director Tom Harper's work on the British show "The Misfits" but I don't think there will be many laughs in this film and no dead probation workers to bury again and again.  So, grab your backpack and let's head back to Eel Marsh House and visit our old ghostly friend.

  It's London during WW2 an the city is being bombed by the Germans.  Teacher Eve Parkins along with her students and the head mistress of the school, Jean Hogg spend the night hiding in the tunnels underground for safety for one more night before they evacuate to what should be a much safer place outside the city at Eel Marsh House.  The next day, Eve and Ms. Hogg meet the children at the train but have to seem to be missing one boy, Edmond.  He finally arrives, just before the train departs and Eva learns that the parents of Edmond were killed in the air raid last night and because of the trauma of it, Edmond has decided to stop talking.  Eve tries to console poor Edmond but the stern Ms. Hogg rushes them on to the train, so they can get their trip on it's way and finally get to safety.
  The train trip isn't too bad, Eve meets a dashing young pilot named Harry who is being stationed near Eel Marsh House.  He chats her up during the trip and when the train finally arrives at the station, Eve sadly bids farewell to Harry, who she has taken a real liking too.  Eva and her party meet up with Dr. Rhodes, who loads everyone into cars and directs them to their new home.  Unfortunately during the dark dreary ride to the house, one of the cars gets a flat and they have to wait while the driver changes the tire.  While waiting, Eve wanders over to a nearby abandoned looking cottage and peeks in the window.  She is startled by a crazy old man, screaming a warning her that they will never escape "her"!  Luckily, Dr. Rhodes finds her and ushers her back to the car and they make the final leg of there journey to the house.
  When they get to the house, it's not quite what everyone was expecting but at least it's "safe" and away from the major centers so the chances of them being attack by bombers is low.  During the night Eve has a terrible nightmare about her in a hospital giving birth and the evil nurses snatching her child away while she lay there bleeding in a bed.  She wakes up and hears some noises in the cellar and when she goes downstairs to investigate she thinks she sees someone down there but the specter quickly vanishes.
  The next morning, Eve asks Ms. Hogg if there is anyone else staying here and is given a weird look from Ms. Hogg.  Eva is not the only one having troubles, apparently Edmond is being given a rough time by a some bullies because he's not speaking and having fun with them but he has found an unusual sailor doll that he seems fond of that keeps him company.  Eve tells the boys to leave Edmond alone but she still can't really get Edmond to join in any activities with them.  That night, although Eve locks the door, one of the boys who was bullying Edmond mysteriously is able to open it and wanders out of the house.
  During breakfast the following morning, Eve and Ms. Hogg search frantically for the boy, who has disappeared.  Sadly, Eve finds him dead on the shore.  As time goes on, Eve sees more glimpses of this woman in black and with the help of Harry, who has come to check up on her, they learn about the chilling history of Jennet Humpfrye, the woman in black,  and the death of her little boy Nathanial, which drove her to suicide and now makes any children in the area suffer for.  Eventually, Eve and Harry believe that the house is being haunted by Humpfrye and that the children are in a lot of danger.  Can Eva and Harry get the kids out of Eel Marsh House before the ghost of Jennet Humpfrye uses her spooky powers to kill them all or will Ms. Hogg and her "no such things as ghost attitude" keep them in danger and the whole lot of them will perish?

   I found this film a little dry and it seems a little too focused on the main character Eve.  I understand that she is the protagonist, but without properly developed secondary characters certain actions and sequences in the film fall flat.  Like when something happens to one of the children, for instance, when they are running for their lives in horror or they die, there must be a reason to care about them and if we don't know them or have any reason to care about them, the scene is completely lost.  Even, Edmond, who is a very key element to the film, is barely highlighted in this tale and is glossed over with some minor detail, which is crazy because in order for the whole film to work, you need to care about this character.  Sadly, the central crux in this film is put on Eve rehashing and discovering the Jennet Humpfrye story, which we've already covered in the previous film.  As well as a traumatic past incident of Eves' life that is never quite clear, considering the story that she tells Harry differs from her nightmare imagery suggests, which is from the dream is a lot bloodier and less PG-13y, me thinks.
  Also, we barely see the woman in black which is frustrating because not only is it the title of the film but this is the sequel and this is where twisted wraith should be going full force.  We, the audience, knows she exists and there is no reason to play coy with this ghostly demon but for some reason, director Tom Harper (War Book, Peaky Blinders) and writer Jon Croker (Desert Dancer, Ealing Comedy) keep her hidden away, like it's going to be a shock when appears closer to the end.  What there was a ghost, what a surprise! Duh, we know that's why we're here.  I think that there could have been a quicker and easier way to recap the Humpfrye story, with a someone on the train, the Harry character could have heard stories or even a villager have hinted at it, and this would have saved so much more time to develop other characters and make the film a bit more scary.

  However it's not all bad, Harper does create the right atmosphere for the film.  In Hammer tradition, the proper Gothic tone is set once they arrive at the house and there are enough dark hallways and spooky basements to keep your attention for a bit.

   Like most sequels, this is definitely not as good as the original or the remake and it falls victim to spending too much time treading the same ground.  The story is unimaginative and the majority of these characters, outside of Eve, don't grow or progress outside the one dimensional write up they used to outline the film. As I mention earlier, the worst part is that the woman in black is barely used in this and it's a bit disappointing that such a good villain is wasted for the majority of the film and only given minor glimpses throughout the first and second act.  She is suppose to be the Angel of Death, scare us and do some deathing for goodness sakes!  So, if you're looking for a mediocre but familiar haunting story with some alright visuals and a spooky atmosphere, then travel to Eel Marsh House, but you've been warned. 


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