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Article by Teddy Durgin

Woman in Black sequel is not worth the cash

Personally, I'd rather see a flick in which the Man in Black - the late Johnny Cash - appears as a vengeful specter, haunting a bunch of people who take shelter in an eerie country estate home. They tip-toe through the home, responding to every creak and rattle, and asking "Who's there?" and "What do you want?" And the only response they get from time to time are creepy, raspy refrains of "The Man Comes Around," and "God's Gonna Cut You Down," punctuated by a zombified Cash jumping out every once in a while and shouting lines from the Book of Revelation. That would be freakin' awesome actually! But, alas, my task is to review "The Woman in Black 2: The Angel of Death," a sequel to the 2012 sleeper hit that starred Daniel Radcliffe as a 19th century widower who runs afoul of an evil spirit eager to exact revenge for the loss of her child. The sequel is set in 1941 and features fetching newcomer Phoebe Fox as Eve, a British schoolteacher and caregiver who is assigned to escort eight young kids out of London to escape the Nazi blitzkrieg bombings. As fate would have it, she takes them to the same creepy country mansion where Radcliffe's Arthur first encountered the vengeful Woman in Black decades earlier. Putting children in jeopardy is, of course, one of the more shameless manipulations Hollywood filmmakers can employ. I'm sure there was something in those hacked Sony e-mails that said, "Don't harm a single hair on one sweet dog's head. But kids? Put 'em in as much jeopardy as you can. It's box-office GOLD, bay-bee!" In total fairness, Eve is put into plenty of peril too, as is the hunky, yet haunted British military pilot, Harry (Jeremy Irvine of "War Horse"), she meets on the train ride to Ye Olde Haunted Estate. I appreciated the atmosphere and period setting of "The Woman in Black 2." In fact, I think even more could have been done with the world-at-war angle and how it would have messed with the psychology of adults and children in their care at the time. The problem is the film gives the viewer nothing new in terms of jolts and scares. It's all slow build and very little reward. It's really just a bunch of people skulking around in an old creaky house, idiotically calling out "Hello" to the things that go bump in the night and periodically being scared by crows flying by from off-screen or someone coming around a corner at a particularly tense time. The film doesn't feature one standout sequence or innovative plot twist. And I never really invested much emotion or caring into the "special" bond Eve forms with a mute boy (Oaklee Pendergast) in her charge, who recently lost both his parents to German bombs and is now being targeted by the title villainess. I think Phoebe Fox has a future ahead of her. She reminded me a bit of the young Debra Winger crossed with a little Eva Green - clothed, of course - for good measure. She holds the screen, even when she is doing dumb horror chick stuff. But there's just not much else to take away here. "The Woman in Black 2" walks the line... when it should be snapping it.

"The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death" is rated PG-13 for some disturbing and frightening images, and for thematic elements.


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