Saturday, 3 January 2015

Review: The Woman In Black - Angel of Death

World of Blackout Film Review

The Woman In Black: Angel of Death Poster

The Woman In Black: Angel of Death
Cert: 15 / 98 mins / Dir. Tom Harper / Trailer
WoB Rating: 3/7

Oh, it's a cruel and capricious screenwriter who sub-titles a film with a Slayer song and then, as his only apparent nod to thrash metal, inserts the "now I lay me down to sleep" prayer used in Metallica'a most well-known track. Shame on you, Jon Croker, and shame on director Tom Harper for encouraging you…

'Angel Of Death' opens some 30 years or so after the events of 'The Woman In Black' with the Second World War already in full swing and children being evacuated to "The Countryside". So a derelict house on a swamp-enclosed island will be close enough, definitely. When young school teacher Eve Parkins is despatched to look after a group of youngsters with their austere headmistress, the troubled past of the island latches on to the already-traumatised children, and foul things rise once more…

So, yeah, this is a completely unnecessary sequel to a film which worked perfectly well in its own arena, and while it's at least not a total rehash of its predecessor, the screenplay tries at every turn to expand on the events and backstory of The Woman In Black. Tries and fails. As a horror film, it's efficient enough (Friday night's audience*1 jumped at All The Loud Noises™), but the suffocating creepiness which made the first film work just isn't present here. The supernatural mystery story has been replaced by a generic face-at-the-window horror which also has the temerity to borrow the set as well as the name of its forebear.

Phoebe Fox puts in a good turn as the protagonist (restrained by a clunky backstory), Helen McCrory is completely wasted as the headmistress who doesn't suffer fools gladly, and Jeremy Irvine seems to have been drafted in to put the Ham™ into Hammer Horror, taking a badly written role and performing it badly (he is better than this). Most amazingly, the titular Woman™ has not only been re-cast with a different actress, but also seems to have been reduced to a cameo-role in her own film. 'Jennet' shows up occasionally with nowhere near the menace or intensity which Liz White brought to the role. Truth be told, the whole threat-element is just a mess in this film. The mechanism (and reason) by which Jennet works her evil isn't explained for audience members who haven't seen the first one, the mass-hypnotism of the children is reduced massively, and there's a blind fella living with a bunch of ghost-children back on the mainland which seems to have nothing to do with the story at all.

Maybe I shouldn't expect better from Hammer (they gave us The Quiet Ones, after all), but I'm afraid I do. And that's the only time I've been afraid all night...

Oh, and how come the grumpy bus driver tells Eve he can't put the headlights on because there's a blackout and there could be enemy bombers overhead, yet twenty minutes later he's strolling out of the mansion and over the gardens with a torch in his hand?

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
Not unless your standards with horror are incredibly pedestrian/forgiving.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
Oh, it's a telly or Netflix job.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
I haven't seen Phoebe Fox in anything else, but she seems on good form here.
Irvine and McCrory? Nowhere near

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Make a few quid for Hammer by riding on the coat-tails of an acceptable previous film?
It probably does, yes

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Well, I just might.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Helen McCrory starred in the Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows films alongside Mr Domnhall Gleeson, who will be appearing on our screens this December in Star Wars: The Force Awakens..

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 And my word, a Friday-night horror-audience is a terrible thing to behold. Fidgeting and chatting (NO, REALLY) throughout the entire film when the loud noises didn't call for them to outwardly shriek. Bastards.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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