I reviewed The Woman in Black in 2012 and recommended it to you fine readers. That film revived long-dormant Hammer Film Productions, and is an atmospheric, spooky nod to haunted-house horror films from the 1960s. When I heard they were making a sequel, my first thought was that the story had already been resolved. That is the biggest problem The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death faces. Harry Potter already appeased the titular spook, so why the hell is she back? I appreciate the practical set pieces and misty cinematography here, but the film fails to make a compelling case for reviving its antagonist.
Set some twenty-five years after its predecessor, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death, hereinafter WIB2, begins during the German Blitzkrieg bombing raids on London. Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox), the deputy headmistress at an orphanage, accompanies a bus full of children to the English countryside, where they shack up in the old Eel Marsh House to avoid Nazi artillery. A raving townsman warns against bringing children back to "her," and Eve almost immediately notices spooky goings-on at the rundown mansion. A young boy encounters a dark specter after being locked in a room by his classmates, and the evil presence begins drawing other children to their deaths. Eve fights her own paranoia and guilt, and is especially drawn toward the malevolence around her.
Like the original, WIB2 is atmospheric and beautifully shot, with practical sets and a dreary landscape that adds to the tension. The house is separated from civilization when the tide rolls into the surrounding marsh, covering the only road back to London. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that director Tom Harper has little up his sleeve to distinguish his film from its mother. Bringing the Woman in Black back at all moots the original's resolution, and she loses a lot of her edge this go-round. The film uses the same out-of-shadow glimpses and fleeting CGI reflections to portray its demon, but Harper never achieves the icy tension he desires. Instead, he relies on unnecessary audible stingers and cheap jolts.
The film's idea of stranding a group of orphans in the country during WWII is fairly original, but WIB2 quickly forgets the majority of these children. Lost are prime opportunities to spook the innocent wanderers, and Eve's recurring dreams of a botched delivery are a poor substitute. The film dangles a local airman (Jeremy Irvine) as a possible double agent, but this resolution, too, is uninspired. The once-compelling villain is relegated to a sideshow spook, and WIB2 is another entry in a long line of sequels that did not need to be shot.
Fox's 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is expectedly strong. This is a dimly lit, dreary film by design, and many interior shots are cloaked in shadow. That said, shadow detail is commendable amid the inky black levels, and fine-object detail and texture are readily apparent throughout. Color saturation is dialed back and given a blue/grey tint, but things appear otherwise natural. I noticed no issues with digital noise or aliasing, and wide shots are deep and sharp.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is atmospheric and immersive, with plenty of "gotcha" surround stingers and ambient noise. Spookhouse effects frolic in the surrounds, and the LFE rumbles when called upon. Dialogue is crisp and clear and balanced appropriately with effects and score. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release is packed in an eco-case, which is wrapped in a textured slipcover. An UltraViolet digital HD copy is included. Extras are fairly slim: You get a Deleted Scene (2:33/HD); Pulling Back the Veil: The Making of The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death (14:15/HD), a fairly standard BTS featurette; Chilling Locations (5:10/HD), which is self-explanatory; and the film's Theatrical Trailer (2:26/HD).
This Daniel Radcliffe-less sequel to The Woman in Black offers the same spooky setting and practical sets but gives no good reason for the return of its antagonist. The plot drags amid cheap jump scares, and the story fails to capitalize on its children-in-peril potential. Skip It.