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 DEVIL’S KNOT REVIEW

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Knot for me, I’m afraid. What? Bad punnery aside, a star studded cast do their utmost to uplift an initially shocking case that leads nowhere and if not for the studded cast, should have been put on a crime channel as an one hour documentary.

Harsh but true. A slow burning opening leads to an inevitable if shocking murder as, of course, this is based on a true story. The initial murder reveal is haunting and suspenseful. It would be tough for anyone not to imagine that situation in which a loved one, especially a child goes missing. The build up to the event and the aftermath with the search parties and Witherspoon’s sheer fear is very good and very well acted.

However after the murder happens and the initial investigation subsides, it all fizzles out. The first hour is quite watchable, if a little long toothed. Witherspoon plays the manic mother to perfection which does allow for a couple of sad moments. Alessandro Nivola (Face/Off) plays her suspicious husband very well. His erratic behaviour does ponder questions.

The surprise turn for me was Colin Firth as Ron Lax. His southern drawl was nailed to perfection and he applied his charisma yet again to a character you couldn’t stop watching. The only problem is that after the film has finished, you realise Lax didn’t really do anything. Only putting the doubt in a literal witch hunt as the police go out of their way to arrest three lads suspected of dealing in black magic and participating in a cult. Kevin Durand (LOST), for me, played nothing more than a stereotype of a typical southern yokel. Terrible and a waste of a good supporting actor.

This was only the beginning, as the case continued to drag on and all the red herrings were played, it just seemed to go nowhere. The court case scenes that were supposed to be questioning and suspenseful, came off drawn out and long winded. Old Bill Compton himself, Stephen Moyer (True Blood) was bound to play the sly, slick toothed southern prosecutor but it took too long for him to get going. It seemed he and Martin Henderson (The Ring) for a good portion looked more like overacting extras with exaggerated face pulling and exasperated sighs. Bruce Greenwood (The rebooted Star Trek franchise) played the bitter and biased judge with aplomb, even if anyone could have played that part.

And that’s another problem. For most of these parts, anyone could have played them. Elias Koteas (The Haunting in Connecticut), Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spiderman 2), Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone) and Michael Gladis (Mad Men) all pop up in this and do their utmost to uplift stocky characters that seemed to have been thrown in to stretch the film’s questionable running length. The finale was also so abrupt and open that I couldn’t help but feel what was the point of it all?

Reese Witherspoon’s character, who you originally felt sorry for, soon acts out of character and becomes a southern simpleton by the end, who is left sitting on the sidelines. Firth with his chiselled drawl complains about the system but again is only sitting from the sidelines and doesn’t really take any proper action. His back story with his wife felt nothing more than filler. Mireille Enos’ (World War Z) character came off so hammy and laughable that it was tough to take her shady character seriously. Her motives were so questionable and double bluffed that I couldn’t tell what was true nor did I care.

The only actor that may come out of this unscathed was James Hamrick. One to watch. His shady suspect who plays on aggravating the misconstrued public did create a little bit of intrigue that this film desperately needed after such a good opening. Hamrick had enough charisma to leave an impression on a subdued supporting role. But to what avail . . .

Now it is truly heart breaking what happened to those three boys that fateful day and the fact that it was never officially solved, despite it being clear that the police doctored findings, fabricated results and withheld crucial evidence and let the real suspects disappear. It is shocking that three suspects, whose only real crime was being a lover of a particular strange field, were innocently incarcerated for years. To be honest, it left everything too open, which is daunting as life can be that horrific. BUT as a film, I seek more closure and the fact the real suspect did get caught further down the line just irritated me.

We didn’t even get to see the arrest or capture just five minutes of credits explaining everything. In all fairness, some events surprised, others did not. To be honest, if you are interested in this, I would suggest watching the first hour then skip to the end credits. However, I would suggest scrapping this altogether and investing in Prisoners, instead. 2/5 for me.

Currently ranks 147 out of 186!