Starring former Harry Potter Daniel Radcliffe, The Woman in Black, based on the novel by Susan Hill, was a conscious effort to introduce British horror studio Hammer to a new generation, and a vastly successful one at that, grossing almost $128 million on cinema release, a fine return on the $15 million production budget. Of course, a sequel beckoned, moving the story forward a generation from the period prior to the Great War to the days of the London blitz as a schoolteacher and her young charges are evacuated to the supposed safety of isolated Eel Marsh House. Tom Harper directs from a script by Jon Croker, based on a story by Susan Hill, the writer of the original novel.
Kevin Gilmartin – As Geek Chocolate’s proprietor I reserve the right to be its resident total wuss. Having claimed that right I eschew horror movies; I’m good at it, it’s well documented, I get laughed at; mine is not a face that cares. I knew before watching this trailer that I will never see The Woman in Black: Angel of Death, but that has nothing to do with the implied quality.
It looks gorgeous, very atmospheric indeed, and if I wasn’t such a big woopsie about this stuff I’d probably want to see it. That said, it seems a little clichéd; every horror trope I can think of is in the sub-two minute. There’s creepy fingers, creepy dollies, a rocking chair moving on its own, freaky-assed dead little girls, the old hand-on-the-shoulder bit. There’s probably tonnes more that proper horror fans will see and no doubt be drawn to.
Me? I’ll be lucky if I can get to sleep tonight now.
Dario Persechino – It looks like a standard by the numbers horror with jump shots that (at least from the trailer) you know are coming. Nothing new, and nothing in the trailer indicates that it is going to introduce anything interesting to the formula. This is an unnecessary sequel.
Les Anderson – Although completely derivative it still looks considerably better than the Radcliffe film which was an overwrought mess.
Matt Rutland – Aww goddamnit. I loved the first WiB, Will Smith was charming and Tommy Lee Jo… what? wait. sorry, I mean Daniel Radcliffe was very good and threw off the cape of young Master Potter admirably in the understated but effective horror of the type which Hammer used to be renowned for.
Sadly, this sequel seems very much to be aiming for the straight to DVD market with a messy plot and script that seems to have had all the creativity and thought expunged for cheap, American schlock.
From the American prayer at bedtime as opposed to the Lord’s Prayer, to the cheap jump scares and the essential reveal of the whole plot and ending in the trailer, we Brits are left to suffer as we pander to those across the pond once more, sacrificing the good for the popcorn munching simpletons this now targets. Poor effects, telegraphed scares and clichéd dialogue make for an unsatisfying trailer experience.
Michael Flett – First up, it seems well made and atmospheric, and will no doubt do moderately well, though without the major selling point of Daniel Radcliffe, it will not repeat the success of the first unless it is exceptionally good, and I get no impression of that.
I remember feeling that the first was a brilliant horror film for someone who has never seen a horror film before, like a Ladybird introductory version, but with nothing to offer to anyone who knows horror. Daniel was hopelessly miscast: this is no reflection on his performance or him as an actor, he simply wasn’t physically right for the part, but he wasn’t cast to be convincing, he was cast to bring in fans of the recently finished Harry Potter films, and it worked, they came in droves. I’m presuming this is likely aimed at same audience, else why make a sequel, but what is there here to hook them?
This time we have the excellent Helen McCrory leading the cast, another Potter escapee, also seen in Doctor Who (Vampires of Venice) and Peaky Blinders (so she knows director Tom Harper), Jeremy Irvine, no doubt young, ruggedly handsome and talented, Adrian Rawlins who played Harry’s father James Potter (see a pattern here?), Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders, Harry Potter…), but where is the hook for the audience?
It’s telling that the novelisation, written by Martyn Waites, not Susan Hill, was released a year ago and was not well received, and the trailer is promoting a film which seems to be ripping off not only its own predeccesor with more creepy dolls and empty rocking chairs but Juan Antonio Bayona’s infinitely superior El Orfanato and Doctor Who‘s superlative Blink, and admittedly it was only broadcast this year but Doctor Who also did the monsters under the bed routine in Listen.
The opening shots of the evacuees does make me wonder what The Chronicles of Narnia would have been like made as horror films, Tilda Swinton given free reign to make her White Witch Jadis as terrifying as she should have been, Mr Tumnus as creepy as Doug Jones’ Faun rather than cute as a button James McAvoy. But I digress.
I would say I was hoping this means they have a strong story, which should be the starting point for any film, rather than another exercise in directed marketing which I was expecting, but we don’t seem to have either, and without that, my fear is that they don’t have anything, but come January I will be delighted to be proven wrong.
The Woman in Black: Angel of Death is scheduled for release on 2nd January 2015.