The Woman in Black 2 (2015)
In many ways, Hammer’s sequel The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (2014) is better than the original. Both films clock in at short running times less than 100 minutes, which I find refreshing in today’s opulence of three hour CGI synthesizia, and center around odd dealings in Eel Marsh Manor, a creepy abandoned estate stuck on a tidal-locked and fog shrouded Tombolo in Northeastern England. WIB2 takes place 40 years after WIB, during the Luftwaffe bombing raids on England in WWII. This sets up a nice plot device to relocate several adolescent war orphans from the war torn landscapes to the foggy coastal environs of Eel Marsh, and you guessed it -a haunted house. The central characters are an introverted and shell-shocked boy Edward (Oaklee Pendergast), nannie Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox), RAF pilot Harry Burnstow (Jeremy Irvine), and head mistress Jean Hogg (Helen McCrory, who you may recognize from some of the Harry Potter films and the latest 007 Skyfall).
Once the party reaches Eel Marsh Manor, the usual hijinks occur, including cliché bullying of young Edward, creaks and thumps, shadowy apparitions, plenty of bus shots, broken windows, explorations of chests and basements and a very creepy room full of weathered mechanical toys. Of course only Edward can see the woman in black at first.
However, the film is indeed atmospheric and expertly lensed. Some of the cinematography is striking and the amateur photographer in me senses that portions of the film were shot by candlelight using extremely fast and wide open lenses (ala Kubrick). The film looks like a ghost story should be and most closely resembles Guillermo del Toro’s superior The Devil’s Backbone (2001), and his production The Orphanage (2007). It’s also well acted by a fine British cast. I much prefer Phoebe Fox’s heroine in the lead over the somewhat stiff Daniel Radcliffe (no, I’m not a big fan) in the original. As far as ghost stories go, this is competent work, but why release this in January? I would have loved seeing WIB2 this past Halloween.