At the height of the London Blitz, a class of children are evacuated from the city and boarded at Eel Marsh house. Big mistake. The house has a vengeful ghost who has an angry vendetta against other people’s children. The film is very dark, but the story is very slow and padded out with people’s suspenseful wanderings around in the dark house. As a very un-Hammer-like Hammer Film, this film is very slow to develop and besides some cheap jump scenes is only mildly thrilling and not very scary at all. Visually it is nice, but it offers very little new.
Rating: low +1 (-4 to +4) or 5/10
For the benefit of those who came in late, Hammer Films is back, at least in name. Hammer was the low-budget but prestigious horror film factory mostly of the late 1950s to the early 1970s. In name and somewhat in spirit, it has been resurrected. Now the original Hammer did absolutely no ghost stories for the theatrical screen. However, the new Hammer did a strong atmospheric adaptation of the novel ‘The Woman In Black’ by Susan Hill. There was a previous film version that ran on television, but Hammer is neither adverse to remakes nor sequels if the new story contained enough that was new.
In this sequel to ‘The Woman In Black’, London is being shaken and bombarded to pieces by the Germans in the Blitz. Many of the besieged Brits reluctantly agree to have their children taken away from them temporarily and moved out of harm’s way. Schoolteacher Eve Parkins (played by Phoebe Fox) comes with her school’s headmistress to take a few dozen children somewhere that was not being bombed. Eve has special feelings for the newly orphaned child Edward (Oaklee Pendergast) who is now mute. They will be taken to Eel Marsh House, in the charmingly morbid town of Crythin Gifford. Uh-oh! Isn’t that the house haunted by a ghost who wants to kill children? See ‘The Woman In Black’.
Sadly director Tom Harper’s sequel to the Hammer version of ‘The Woman In Black’, delivers not enough of what it delivers not enough of and too much of what it delivers too much of. There is a lot of wandering around in the dark in scenes sometimes hard to make out. There are lot of little shocks that make the viewer jump and expect that something important has just happened. A moment later, with a sigh of relief we realise that nothing scary happened and, with another sigh, that the plot did not even advance.
This is an exceptionally slow ghost story. We see what might have been one or two flashes of the eponymous ghost, but we are not even sure of what we have seen. Then we return to wandering around in the dark. There may be noises in the night and, the film seems to take place mostly in the night, in the dark but there is nothing for the eye to rest upon so one can say the ghost has been sighted.
If you want to see what the ghost looks like, look at the film poster instead of the movie screen. We do get our fill of ominous antique toys and dolls cluttering up the house. Somehow, it does not matter how kid-friendly a Victorian vintage doll was intended; it still gives one the heebie-jeebies. I think a whole generation of little girls must have grown up warped by the experience of mothering these disturbing-looking dolls.
A good scary ghost story needs both story and shocks. This film is not without story, but the story is just a whiff. Much of the screen time spent with someone wandering around a haunted house in near dark waiting for something to jump out and we see little of the ghost. In fact, except for the ghost’s penchant for preying on children, there is not much reason why this story is a sequel to its predecessor. This is a ghost story that is short on both ghost and story. I rate ‘The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death’ a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 5/10.
Mark R. Leeper
(c) Mark R. Leeper 2015