Star Rating:

The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

Director: Tom Harper

Actors: Jeremy Irvine, Helen McRory, Oaklee Pendergast, Phoebe Fox

Release Date: Friday 2nd January 2015

Running time: 98 minutes

The sequel to the surprisingly-spooky 2012 Hammer remake boasts a great idea but its reliance on ho-hum horror tropes for boo moments means it loses the atmospheric magic of the original.

Set some thirty years after the events in first outing, teacher Eve Parkins (Fox) joins stern headmistress (McRory) and eight children evacuees escaping German bombs during the Blitz. The now abandoned and derelict Eel Marsh House will be a small school and orphanage for the children until it’s safe to return home. However, something still moves in the rooms, its presence burrowing its way into Eve’s already shaky psyche and that of troubled kid Edward (Pendergast), mute since he lost his parents in the bombings. With the help of a handsome pilot (Irvine), Eve goes about investigating the history of the previous owner…

With his experience in pulling strong performances from children in The Scouting Book For Boys, Tom Harper looks like the perfect substitute for the departing director James Watkins. While Harper can do the creepy face in the window, the evil-looking crow on the gravestone, and his trees take on the shape of gnarled hands of witches, he goes for horror’s tiresome whip-pan/loud noise tactic more often than not. You will jump but shouting boo doesn’t take skill. But the sequel’s biggest sin is that it doesn’t fully explore the psychological machinations of Jon Croker’s script.

If the first film was a study of a widower’s depression and his fear of his inability to raise his child (probably), Angel of Death explores the horrors of war - "It’s not the first time I’ve pulled a body from barbed wire," remarks a WWI veteran when untangling a dead boy from a beach fence - and guilt - Eve’s troubled past involving a baby comes back to, literally, haunt her, while the headmistress won’t engage with the remorse of encouraging her husband and her sons to join the service. "Our own worst enemy is ourselves. Our fears, doubts – that’s what will destroy us." Unfortunately, Harper slides over this theme for easy boo tactics.

Not bad but there isn’t much more than can be squeezed out of this franchise.