The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death has the unfortunate task of following up 2012’s The Woman in Black, as is the onus of a sequel. Director Tom Harper, having mostly worked on television shows, returns to the same Eel Marsh House as the first film, this time forty years later and with a group of schoolchildren running away from World War II bombings. The same sort of hauntings occur, but instead of a post-Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe, viewers get Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox), a gentle, caring schoolteacher who suffers from the same sorts of horrible memories as the Eel Marsh House’s spooky resident.
Angel of Death pales in comparison, in almost every way, to its predecessor, from the scares to the storyline. The problem isn’t that this is a sequel that doesn’t live up to the original; it’s that Harper doesn’t make an attempt to distance Angel of Death at all, taking all of the same set pieces – a foggy marsh, a creepy locked-and-unlocked room, slow ascents up the staircase and down a hall – and simply cramming in a new plot.
While the schoolchildren add a different element – that element being sometimes they can be eerie when wandering aimlessly through the dark – there’s just not enough here to warrant a sequel, because this is basically The Woman in Black-lite with less effective scares and a convoluted paranormal history. Harper can’t match the pacing or the palpable atmosphere of the original’s, partly because that film made the viewer feel just as cold and alone as Radcliffe’s character. It begs the question – why follow up with something that ineffectively mimics a better movie?
What The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death does manage to do is prompt the viewer to seek out The Woman in Black again. Harper’s best scenes, like the slow crawl from stairwell platform to the haunted back room, are clearly influenced by James Watkin’s direction in the first, but ultimately this is much more sloppy and less terrifying. It’s strange, too, that the story didn’t attempt to take a turn that would have circumvented the conventional supernatural phenomena; instead of hauntings, the film could have capitalized on its protagonist’s psychological fragility. Alas, it does not and so The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death sounds the death knell for the franchise.