The sequel to the Daniel Radcliffe haunted house flick, ‘The Woman in Black’, doesn’t have a patch on its predecessor, says Emma Hyland
The sequel to James Watkins‘ moody and atmospheric 2012 adaptation of Susan Hill’s gothic novella, The Woman in Black is set amid the London evacuations of World War II. Stuck for somewhere else to go, eight orphaned school children, along with their hard-handed headmistress Jean Hogg (Helen McCrory) and her sweet assistant Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox), end up at Eel Marsh House, the dreary domicile in which Daniel Radcliffe was haunted into insanity in the previous film.
Our protagonist is Eve, a woman tormented by her own secret past. She takes an immediate liking to one of the cherub faced kids, Edward, whose parents have just died and strikes up a romantic attachment Harry Burnstow (Jeremy Irvine) – a handsome WWII pilot she meets on the train from London to Crythin Gifford, who harbours secrets of his own.
Eel Marsh House is hardly a welcoming place and the entire village beyond the house and the causeway it’s situated on has been deserted, a fact that bizarrely leads none of the cast to ask any questions. Eve, however, can feel that there is something wrong with the house, and the ghostly presence of The Woman, which only she can sense, stokes up some nightmares about her difficult past.
Phoebe Fox, as Eve, is a decent lead; she has the kind of pretty face that can be made plain for a film such as this, and she carries off the tormented young woman well. However, for what she makes up in prettiness, she lacks in presence and magnetism, leaving you caring little about her increasing dilemma. Irvine too is generically handsome and dashing, but he’s a bit fresh-faced and doe-eyed for a man who’s witnessed the horrors of war.
The star of this horror show is McCrory. She’s captivating, bitchy and mysterious, keeping the audience guessing throughout at whether or not she has an ulterior motive.
Though it somewhat rekindles the moodiness of the original, director Tom Harper constantly plumps for the kind of cheap scare that abounds in every haunted house flick. The story hardly departs into new territory, so if you saw the first film, don’t expect anything new. The entity haunting the house is the same, so much of the backstory and imagery is equally samey. Even the empty rocking chair makes a reappearance.
Admittedly, George Steel’s cinematography is hauntingly beautiful – all foggy marshes, symmetrical streets, and dimly-lit buildings. The children are great in their parts and add a new layer of creepiness to the proceedings, but it’s not enough to rescue this from the doldrums of sequel repetition. It’s time to give the poor Woman in Black a rest, I think.
Release Date: January 1
Director: Tom Harper
Runtime: 98 mins
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