Tuesday, January 6, 2015

It Came From The Cineplex: The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death

The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death was written by Jon Croker and directed by Tom Harper.

It's a sequel to 2012's The Woman In Black, although the only characters from the first film who appear here are the ghostly Woman of the title, and maybe Eel Marsh House. Be advised that Daniel Radcliffe, star of the original, is nowhere to be found in this installment, as it takes place some forty years later (not to mention the fact that he died in the first film).

Like most British horror, it's stylish and moody, full of spooky landscapes, decrepit houses and creaking doors. Unfortunately it's not the least bit scary. It's a typical watered-down PG-13 "horror" film, with a formulaic plot and paper thin characters.

As I said in my review of the first film, I kind of feel sorry for horror movies these days. If you include tons of gore, then your film is labeled torture porn. If you go for atmospheric and moody, the audience is bored to death. There doesn't seem to be any middle ground.

It's also becoming increasingly tough to scare people in a world like ours, where death, destruction and decapitation are an everyday occurrence.

According to industry insiders, theater attendance in 2014 plummeted to the lowest point in twenty years.* Hollywood need look no further for the cause of this drop than mediocre, script-by-committee films like this one.


The Plot:
During the London Blitz, young teacher Eve Parkins and headmistress Jean Hogg evacuate a group of school children out of the city to the small village of Crythin Gifford. Eve feels particularly drawn to Edward, a child who was orphaned in the Blitz and is now unable to speak. In the village, Eve meets Harry Burnstow, a dashing young pilot stationed at a nearby airfield.

The children are relocated to Eel Marsh House, which is just as charming as its name suggests. Eve has trouble sleeping in the gloomy house, having nightmares of the baby she was forced to give up when she was younger. She begins hearing strange noises and sees a mysterious woman in black skulking around the house (Houston, we have a title!).

Edward is bullied by a couple of older students and begins carrying an old sailor doll he finds in a nursery. The next morning, one of the students who bullied him is found drowned on the beach, having apparently killed himself.

Eve explores a nearby cemetery and finds the grave of Nathaniel Drablow. She and Harry listen to an old recording made by Alice Drablow, Nathaniel's mother. After Nathaniel died in the moors surrounding the house, Alice was killed by her sister, Jennet Humpfrye, who was Nathaniel's real mother. It's all very confusing and even though it's seemingly important, the movie apparently doesn't care if we understand it or not.

When the Woman In Black causes another schoolchild to kill herself, Eve decides to get the kids out of Eel Marsh House pronto. She and Harry take them all to a fake airfield, designed to fool German bombers. Harry reveals to Eve he's no longer a pilot; he's been labeled a coward after a disastrous mission killed his entire crew. They hide inside a bunker at the airfield, waiting for morning light.

Edward sneaks out of the bunker and goes back to Eel Marsh House. The Woman In Black is trying to drown him so they can be together forever. Eve follows Edward, sees him walking into the marsh and dives in to save them. They're both pulled down by the ghosts of the Woman's past victims. At the last second, Harry jumps in and sacrifices himself to save Eve and Edward.

Later back in London we see Eve has adopted Edward, who's talking again. They go for a walk as the Woman In Black smashes a framed photo of Harry on the mantle. The End... or IS it?

• I don't have a lot to say about this film. It not as bad as the execrable Transformers films, but it's extremely predictable and just sort of... there.

• I liked the London Blitz setting of the film, as that's a period that's always fascinated me.

• This is one of the darkest movies I've seen in quite a while. Not thematically, but actually physically dark. Half the time I couldn't see what the hell was going on. Even the daylight scenes were dark and muddy. 

I'm not sure if the film was actually made this way, or if my theater just wasn't projecting it properly. At times the screen was so dark I felt like I was listening to a radio play instead of watching a movie.

• Edward finds a little sailor doll in a nursery and begins carrying it around. The doll looks similar to Robert The Doll, a famous haunted toy that was the inspiration for Chucky. Intentional, or just a coincidence?

• Harry finds an old cylinder recording made by Alice Drablow and plays it. She infodumps a good deal of backstory in this recording, but unfortunately due to her accent and the player's scratchy audio distortions, I couldn't understand a single word she was saying. Eh, I'm sure we didn't need to understand who the Woman In Black is or why she's doing these terrible things.

Shortly after Harry listens to this distorted recording, he and Eve begin discussing the Drablow family and Jennet Humpfrye in great detail, as if they've been researching them for years. How the hell do they know all this intimate minutiae about these people? Did we skip a reel? 

• As Eve is trying to herd the children out of Eel Marsh House, an air raid siren sounds and everyone hides in the basement. An eerie draft blows out the candles, and the characters spend a couple of tense minutes in pitch blackness (I told you it was dark!). 

When they finally get the candles relit, they discover that one of the children is missing. Harry then says, "Right! Let's find her!" and switches on a flashlight he'd apparently been holding the entire time. What the hell?

The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death is a sequel no one asked for to a film no one saw, and is about as scary as a basket of kittens. I give it a C.

* About those theater attendance statistics. Let's take a look at the actual figures, shall we? It's estimated that 1.26 BILLION people bought movie tickets in 2014. That's the lowest number since 1995, when 1.21 BILLION tickets were sold. 

So yes, ticket sales are down, but Jesus Christ! They still sold over a BILLION goddamned tickets! How can that ever be seen as a failure?

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