The woman in black 2 angel of death

Hammer’s The Woman in Black (dir James Watkins) was the runaway smash hit of 2012 and it was almost inevitable that a sequel would come along. The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (dir Tom Harper) is set during WWII and is the story of Eve, played by Phoebe Fox, a teacher who, along with her headmistress, (Helen McCrory) is tasked with evacuating a group of school children from London to relative safety in the countryside. The group must stay at the ill-famed Eel Marsh house, but upon arrival they learn that they are the first group to arrive and will be alone in the house for a week. Eve is drawn to look after one of the children in particular, Edward, who has recently been orphaned and is so traumatised that he cannot speak. Eve feels connected to him because she has not recovered from the lost her own child upon birth to the authorities. Eve and Jean her headmistress have very different ideas about how to deal with children (Eve is soft and Jean is stern) All of these factors make Eve and Edward extremely susceptible to the effects of the eponymous ‘woman in black’ who, still bitter from the loss of her own son out in the bay, likes to go around killing children and snatching their souls just by appearing to them. Needless to say all the evacuee children are in danger.
evacueesAngel of Death’s World War II setting adds to the haunting air created by the beautiful, and atmospheric set design, cinematography and costume. Using the experiences of the evacuees as a backdrop is very interesting and evokes the loneliness and isolation of life in a strange place in the middle of nowhere. Angel of Death keeps true to the period thematically; the women are left on their own to look after the kids in a house with limited resources, the only adult male figure is Dr. Rhodes, (Adrian Rawlins) who was presumably not called up to fight due to his age and job role, and is extremely busy playing his part for the War effort in other ways which, as he explains to Eve at one point is why he is unable to help the women with the repairs of the house. There is of course Jeremy Irvine as pilot Harry Burnstow, who is perhaps a little wooden, however I presume this is intentional as I believe his character represents the ghosts of all the young men who have gone off to War never to return. So although he is a love interest for Eve and a real live character I cannot really count him as a live male figure within the film because he is fated from the first to forever live with his dead flight crew at the bottom of the sea.
WIBAOD_STILL-09.jpgTrauma is a prominent theme in this film. Characters like Jean, who comes from a family of professional soldiers, and the Doctor who has his training find it easier to cope and carry on with everyday life but characters like Eve and Edward, who represent the ordinary civilian population, find it harder to deal with pressures of War and loss. Harry is so traumatised by the deaths of his crew that he can no longer fly due to his acute fear of water, he has become a shell. Fox gives a brilliantly subtle performance as Eve, who tries to smile through her sadness, suicide is another big theme of the Woman in Black films, and there are a few moments during the film where it is hard to know if Eve (or Harry for that matter) has the will to make it through to the end.
eveAngel of Death has not had quite the commercial success enjoyed by its predecessor, this is likely to be because Fox is a relative unknown and Irvine does not have the same star power as Daniel Radcliffe to pull people in. (Although if you were wondering where you had seen Dr. Rhodes before it is because Rawlins played James Potter, Harry’s father in the Harry Potter films)
Despite the lackluster reviews I personally prefer the classic ‘British ghost story’ atmosphere of Angel of Death. The film is rammed full of hard jump scares, mostly genuine ones too, which keep you glued to the edge of your seat. Angel of Death may not be an earth shattering horror film, but Hammer consistently produce good quality horror films with a beautiful, classically Gothic aesthetic. Worth a watch.


The Woman In Black

On Friday I wandered down to my local cinema with my mate Murray and caught the second showing of the revived Hammer studios new film The Woman in Black. Murray had already joked on the walk over that the auditorium would be packed with screaming teenage Potter fans a notion that I had brushed off, but on entry to the screen (just in time for the Orange ad) we discovered that this was indeed the case. Whenever Daniel Radcliffe appeared on screen the excitement from the back rows was audible. This mildly tainted my enjoyment of the film, as on a personal level I find it hard to feel scared when viewing a film with large numbers of (giggling) people. Others on the other hand enjoy this shared atmosphere of opening weekend horror movies, and I admit that I was happy to hear the loud screams of my fellow audience members for a home grown British horror, which brings me onto the film itself.
Hats off to Hammer for managing to do the inexplicable and produce a horror film that is on one level a gore-free, completely inoffensive, almost family friendly 12A film, but on another level genuinely chilling, seat grippingly terrifying, thoroughly modern, and and yet nostalgically classical horror. This is also the first of the new Hammer films that I have seen that I think can be described as a Hammer film in the truest sense (fitting in with it’s previous cannon of films) Let Me In. and The Resident both felt very American, in style not just in location, whereas The Woman in Black is unashamedly British in both regards. The film is very modern in style, but manages to create a continuity with Hammer’s past through its use of themes and iconography. Back once more are the unfriendly locals, the rolling fog banks, the religious iconography, and the muddy grave yards, only this time the scenery is stomped through by the fresh faced Daniel Radcliffe.
And now a brief summery of the plot. Daniel Radcliffe’s wife has died in child birth, this event leaves him so distraught that his work evidently suffers, and now, a few years on, he is given an ultimatum by his employer that he must travel to a remote coastal village and spend the weekend sorting out the papers of a deceased clients estate before returning or he will lose his job. Sounds simple enough? However when Radcliffe arrives in the village he finds that the locals, including the local solicitor who is supposed to help him, want him to go straight back where he came from. Even worse the house he needs to visit is on an island surrounded by dangerous marshes that can only be reached by a causeway when the tide is out. He soon discovers that the house is haunted by a mysterious woman in black, and the consequences of seeing her are grave indeed for the residents of the local village. But not only is Radcliffe tapped in the house for long periods by the tide, but he is trapped by the knowledge of what will become of his son if he leaves without completing his work for the firm.
Although I was not scared per say, as I am notoriously hard to scare nowadays, I did find that the film had a suitably creepy atmosphere, and some nail biting set pieces. The child’s playroom with the rocking chair was enough to give anyone nightmares. The other people in the theatre were thoroughly terrified from start to finish, including Murray who was gripping my arm from about a third of the way in. The Woman in Black is a very, beautiful, atmospheric, highly enjoyable, and well made film and I thoroughly recommend it.