THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH REVIEW

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Looks like the franchise died before it could even begin.

This hollow (but occasionally jumpy) sequel feels like nothing more than a ghost of it’s predecessor.

As the film came to a close, I had a horrible feeling. Not one of unease or relief but one of disappointment.

Now, I have never seen the theatrical production of the Woman in Black but have been told endlessly to invest (Which I shall!) but I did see the first feature installment.

It was Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Potter role and was hyped as the must-see horror film of the year. Challenge accepted. And to my surprise, both were actually very good. Tense, atmospheric with a solid British cast and it even managed to make me jump quite a few times.

A success. Quite rightly so. Which meant one thing. A sequel, of course!

So here we are. Dear, oh, dear.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. The opening showed promise. The Eel Marsh house in all it’s eery and (terribly grainy) detail. A heart beating as the camera pans closer and closer. Creepy stuff.

The beats juxtaposed with the air raid bombing was a clever technique. Director Tom Harper didn’t overdo his handling of the Blitz. The panoramic view of the damage of the Blitz on London was subtle but harrowing.

The bombing quickly established a likeable lead in Phoebe Fox. I expect to see more from her. The characters were quickly introduced and sent on their way in one nice package.

I liked the concept of the evacuees escaping to the countryside. That’s what did happen and it made the whole revisit to the manor that much more believable. Plus it allowed for a few more interesting things to happen. I say a few. One thing involving a dummy airfield.

Fox was a strong character and I actually cared for her. Which always helps. A lot of horror films fail to tackle this issue which makes it harder for you to get caught up in the scares. Even if the scares are pretty tame, you still need to care what happens to the characters.

Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders. A series I strongly recommend) played the stern headmistress as well as she could. Her character Jean Hogg felt too much like a stereotype. Don’t get me wrong, women were strong during the war.

But she seemed a little lifeless behind her “I am hard because I have to be. We are in a war” face. I can relate to it certainly but there wasn’t much else to her sour faced demeanour.

And that was a major problem this time around. Even though the sequel felt like a pale imitation of the first, the characters also felt like ghosts of themselves.

Jeremy Irvine (War Horse/The Railway Man) was incredibly stocky and bland. It was only near the end of the film in which the inevitable fling heated up and some chemistry finally occurred that I found myself interested.

There were only three of the children that got moments to shine. The rest . . . Well, frankly. They didn’t need a class of them. Not even red herrings for the dark menace. I mean, lady.

Oaklee Pendergast (Real name. I know, right) was excellent as Edward Lee, a pupil orphaned by the Blitz. He played the role well and brought the relationship between Fox’s Miss Parkin and Lee to the fore.

George Steel’s cinematography was terrible. Normally I commend an attribute but it was all too grainy and dark. I couldn’t see a thing. In certain scenes, it added to the tension. In others, I couldn’t even see where Parkins was going in the derelict village.

It made it all look so painfully dull. I understand that it was the Blackout and the war time BUT I couldn’t see the demon doing her thing!

There were good portions where the tension and atmosphere built things up well. BUT a majority of the time to no avail.

Don’t get me wrong. There were a couple of jumpy bits that got me pretending that there was something wrong with my chair as to why I moved so frantically.

BUT at the same time, I felt the film had to rely on incredibly loud music to get you to jump. I don’t have a cinema sound system at home and I’m sure if (IF) I watched this again, it wouldn’t have half the impact.

It also relied on the original gags to get your pulses racing. The window, the rocking chair, the noose. All managed to get me twitching and twerking (No, not that twerking) again but it felt a little lazy. Relying on all the things that made the first film so good and not building on or re-working it in any capacity.

Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders/Storage 24) did his best to deliver as the creepy blind hermit, Jacob. For some bizarre reason, he really doesn’t want you to look at him. For those who have seen it, you’ll know what I mean.

Adrian Rawlins (James Potter from the HP movies) as the irritable Dr Rhodes had potential but didn’t really go anywhere or . . . come back for that matter.

I had to get a Potter reference in there somewhere. To be honest, I was waiting for Radcliffe to float in and scream, “EXPECTO PATRONUM!” just to get this dull, dreary flick going.

It had a faint whiff of The Others with The Ring BUT it just didn’t reach the heights you’d expect and it all finishes so flatly and predictably that I felt a little miffed. Putting it mildly.

Okay at a push. And that is only because I have seen so many terrible horror movies the last few months that this manages to trump over them. BUT that wasn’t necessarily a tough barrier to break into.

Atmospheric in parts. The odd jumpy moment. BUT it fails to capture the fear, the characters or the gusto that made the first film so good. I fear though that there may be another on the way. If so, whoever takes it on make sure not to slap any old thing together or else that will face an exorcism like this one!

2.5/5

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THE QUIET ONES REVIEW

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The Quite . . . Rubbish Ones, really. A real shame, a rebooted Hammer brings us a jumpy, if tragically predictable and disappointing affair.

With the inevitable tag line, “Based on actual events”, we follow an Oxford University professor and a team of students in the 1970s as they conduct an experiment on a young girl who is believed to be possessed with a demonic force. I had so much hope for this. To be honest, horror films of late have hit an all time low, in every aspect, but the main one being scares.  I was relieved (how wrong I was) when I heard this little demon was created by the producers of the Woman in Black. A genuine suspenseful film that told a story and had scares. I mean it wasn’t that scary but the tension and performances were fantastic.

I hoped with the charismatic Jared Harris (Mad Men) at the helm of this low budget British horror, there could be something but alas it was not to be. It’s not a complete write off. I felt Sam Claflin (Hunger Games: Catching Fire) was a very likeable lead as our conflicted hero. Olivia Cooke (you may remember her from the inaccurate but surprisingly watchable hit, Bates Motel) was fantastic as the vulnerable victim. You do actually care what happens to the pair. The opening half hour builds up the suspense and sets the premise quite well. The unexpected jump here and there kept me on my toes. It made me for watchable viewing. You felt for Cooke’s character as she is interrogated like a Guantanamo Bay victim; forced to stay awake with the endless droning of Slade. I mean, come on it’s bad enough at Christmas.

The sultry Erin Richards with her diva-ish antics is easy on the eyes but nothing else. In terms of story, there isn’t much of one and when plot points are revealed, it’s quite obvious and uninteresting, most notably *FLASH! SPOILER ALERT! SKIP PAST PARAGRAPH IF INTERESTED IN VIEWING* on the reveal of a former patient’s identity. All the build up and flicking back was merely a device to spew up some much needed scares. Where the pace went along quite well, it meandered by the hour marker. Harris is entertaining, if incredibly creepy as his intent to disclaim the supernatural pushes him to the brink. It inevitably occurs in one creepy house. It was nice to see the film try and recreate the old school horror but that is soon thrown out of the window in one scene as we get a handheld camera sequence. Really? I mean, okay, Claflin is carrying a big arse camera but the effect still reeks of Paranormal Activity. Come on, we’ve had a franchise of that. BE DIFFERENT!

There’s enough tension to get the cheeky nibble on your nails or excuse to look at your mate to see if they’re scared, while waiting for impending jump moment. However, it all builds up to the same old guff with the expected, but still makes you bloody jump, last second scare. Once it’s all done, you sit back and think it wasn’t that scary. Not going to be dashing in the house and flicking on lights. It’s been done to death time and time again. Need a break altogether from this genre. Wait for us to miss these or . . . learn from them and make something much better because I know we can. Come on. 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #120 out of 162!