"Don't look! You mustn't look." - Hermit Jacob
It's World War 2 and the bombs are dropping on London at a frantic rate, creating orphans amongst the rubble. School teachers Jean Hogg and Eve Parkins along with their young charges are being evacuated to the country; unfortunately their destination is Cryphin Gifford and even worse Eel Marsh house. Jean and Eve should have done some property research as there was some problems in the house forty odd years earlier, and they are about to reawaken an evil that is never far from the surface.
Naturally as soon as Jean and Eve arrive in the hamlet things seem slightly off, there's a creepy feeling to the area and the locals seem to be aware that they live on the abyss, call out to my boy Friedrich Nietzsche yo. Everyone arrives at Eel Marsh house, queue the haunted house shenanigans, and it doesn't take long for Eve to work out something is very wrong, naturally Jean doesn't believe that things go bump in the night. The local revenant comes out to play, not everyone is going to make it to the end credits, get ready for, well, something.
I quite enjoyed the original remake movie starring Harry Potter and naturally since that movie made a load of cash Hammer Studio was going to serve up a sequel to me. However as the trailers started appearing I become somewhat less excited about catching the movie, it didn't look like there was anything to hang my hat on. The movie came and went, ouch at the box office results, and I kind of wasn't losing any sleep over having missed it hence the delay in dropping this review. I finally got a chance to catch the movie as part of a three for twenty bucks disc sale, guess I paid a bit too much for the privilege. In a nutshell The Woman In Black 2 isn't doing anything The Awakening (2011) didn't do previously, and got to say it does it a hell of a lot worse.
The plot for this one is somewhat confusing and wanders all over the shop without settling down into one aisle. We have our revenant shenanigans, cool nothing to complain about there - except I probably will, but then we get a love angle for no apparent reason other than having that element for a certain section of the audience, we get two separate back stories that somehow tie into what is going down, and more weirdo characters than you can poke a sociopath label at. I was simply lost in the meanderings the plot does and spent the entire running time wondering if I should have slipped on one of del Toro's ghostly picture shows instead.
While there is clearly some scary stuff going down it kind of disappeared on my screen in the blackness everything is shrouded in. That's right folks things are so dark at times it's more than impossible to actually see what's going down! There could have been a pony show going down for all that I could discern, maybe some clowns, heck even a unicorn, you tell me, I wasn't seeing anything. While I get the whole keep it dark and keep them uncomfortable, if you can't actually see what is going down then it's sort of a waste of time. So whether or not there is some poo in your pants scary moments I really can't say, guess you know that's going to be a couple of points off the rating.
I guess my other major problem with the movie was the lack of rocking out new things to see, pretty much every shock tactic you are watching has been done a zillion or more times previously. We get a bunch of jump scenes that pretty much didn't have me slightly popping up in my seat, hey keep your mind out of the gutter people, or feeling in anyway uncomfortable, to be honest they fell a bit flat. Added bonus here, for those of us wanting to ensure we remember standard horror tactics, we get the hardly seen presence passing in the foreground or background that the central character doesn't notice, doors that close themselves, etc. etc. If looking for some new and unique scares then you are probably in the wrong place and maybe should catch the first movie. A sequel of course is never going to have the same impact as the original without resorting to well-worn tactics, see Ouija: Origin of Evil (2016), but some effort should have been made to come up with at least one unique or new shock activity.
The underlying theme of loss was so heavily handled that I really was face palming like a mad bastard. Yes we get the Lady in Black's anger management issues, but I really didn't need to have this reinforced by a secondary plot arc that really doesn't add that much to the current plot developments, beside overburdening them with metaphysical baggage. Equally the schlock about the Pilot and his doomed command was simply heavy handed and not that overtly interesting. And let's not even go near the orphan, lumbering over the horizon folks.
Before really writing Angel of Death off as just another poor attempt to cash in on the success of an original flick with a sequel, shame Hammer shame, there are a couple of exceedingly good aspects to the movie that had me nodding my head in approval.
Firstly the period set pieces rocked the house down, from the vehicles through the re-enactment of German air raids over London. Full marks have got to go to the set designers and the props department that had some authentic looking kit happening on screen. I didn't note a single aspect of this part of the movie that didn't ring true, including the cool motorbike in use. Actually, and going slightly off beam here as they say in gymnastic circles, the reason the house is so dark at night is because any light will give German bombers a target if still carrying the odd bomb. Now that is definitely giving some background to a plot development and is handle with surprising dexterity, but hey once again all that darkness had me screaming out "stay in the light".
I was equally enthralled by the atmosphere going down, all about Eel House, which is just as well as there was nothing like tension happening. There was a real old fashion Hammer feeling happening to the movie, everything is kept bleak, brooding, and of course high on the Gothic side of the alleyway. The smoke machine certainly wasn't being underused and the overall feeling was of dark intent and a general maligned atmosphere. The atmosphere is maintained throughout, even during the day it would appear we are perpetually in twilight, there is no ray of sunshine anywhere to lighten the mood.
After the remake of The Woman in Black propelled Hammer Studios back into the limelight there were no surprises that a sequel was quickly announced, sans Harry Potter of course. Unfortunately the result appears to have been somewhat rushed with no one having the ability to say no to some of the inanely feeble plot points. Sure the movie is well done and of a highly professional standard but it's also incredibly hard to actually see what is happening in some scenes, and the plot developments had me face palming like a mad bastard. If you feel you must watch the movie to fill out your Woman in Black dance card but I'm not going to recommend it to anyone. Somehow I was expecting a hell of a lot more from Hammer, deeply disappointed in this movie and pleased I didn't fork out full dollar on it.