For The Woman in Black 2 Angel of Death, viewers return to the ill-fated Eel Marsh House during World War II, where a group of children and their caretakers are evacuated there after a horrific bombing leaves the city of London in shambles. Thinking they’ve found sanctuary, the new residents of the deadly home soon realize that they have far more to fear than the Axis forces threatening to invade their country when a dark presence begins killing them off one by one.
Angel of Death builds upon the eerie setting established in the first film rather nicely but, the titular apparition takes something of a backseat in this sequel. Filmmaker Tom Harper does a truly admirable job of using atmosphere and the movie’s creepy setting to give audiences a sense of unease, adding in the horrors of war to elevate the mood, but moves away from the deadly force we were introduced to in 2012, which feels like a bit of a step backwards.
That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of good stuff in Angel of Death, as the film possesses a handful of great scares and a several scenes with kids trying to kill themselves that were admittedly a bit disturbing to watch. That was a nice touch, especially considering the sequel’s undoubtedly mainstream approach to terror (akin to The Conjuring) as I certainly wasn’t expecting the material to go that dark. The cinematography by George Steel is excellent and serves hauntingly barren landscape very well and the way Harper utilizes the entire environment of Eel Marsh House- not just the building itself- opened the story up in some rather clever ways.
The casting in Angel of Death is strong as well; newcomers Phoebe Fox and Jeremy Irvine deliver lovely performances that feel ripped right out of 1940’s era cinema, which complimented the material and overall feel of the film. British stage legend Helen McCrory plays the solvent headmistress, who brings her pupils to the Eel Marsh House. My only wish is that she was given more to do here, as we get some inklings of her extraordinary talents, but never see her given the chance to really go for it with her character.
For those who enjoyed the first The Woman in Black, you’ll likely appreciate what the sequel has to offer. It’s a well-made and effectively spooky experience even if the deadly force from the original gets a bit lost along the way. More hardcore horror fans may not necessarily find a lot of frights here, but mainstream viewers- and those who enjoy a good ghost story now and again- should have fun with Harper’s moody and atmospheric follow-up.
Movie Score: 3/5