If you are not aware dear reader, apparently the first Friday of the year is now Halloween. At least that is what the studios want you to believe with the last five years opening with a horror movie. In general January is the month where movies go to die as the unwanted releases come out so the studios can worry about prime movie season later. Which leads us to the unwanted, and convolutely named, The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death. When the title distracts you by remembering a killer Slayer song from 1986 you know you are in for a rough outing.
Taking place in England during the Blitz, we find a group of school teachers and children being holed away in an eerie mansion for safety. Not only do they have to deal with the spookiness but one of the schoolteachers, played by Phoebe Fox, somehow has ties to the titular ghost. Despite having a decent setting for a ghost story The Woman in Black 2 is your standard horror fair. Horror tropes abound with this film including creepy children (add another notch for being British!), incredibly dumb character decisions, and maybe a world record for jump scares. Even the subplot involving a romance between the two leads wind up being your typical affair with nothing redeeming except a slightly interesting setting in the third act.
Going back to the predictability let us compare why this movie fails in with a recent horror hit in The Conjuring. What made James Wan’s 2013 mega hit work was how he took the time to make the house its own character. That is why the best scene in the movie involves a complicated, single take showing us the place from front to back. With The Woman in Black 2, Director Tom Harper gives us a pretty generic house that looks more dirty than scary. It is the definition of a haunted mansion with dust and cobwebs but has none of the charm to make it memorable. The same goes for the titular ghost as she is a generic monster who occasionally makes scary faces. Maybe The Conjuring did not have any memorable ghosts either but it made up with atmosphere which this British sequel lacks.
What makes this all the more frustrating is that there are so many half-baked ideas that could have made for a better film. On one hand you have good costume designs in this and it does feel like England during the early days of WWII. But it is wasted when we are, again, stuck in such a boring house for the majority of the runtime. Then you have these random moments where Tom Harper tries to go more artsy with his direction. Like, whenever the camera follows a vehicle from behind or seeing characters through windows. These good ideas though are sporadic with mostly static angels and greyish filters guiding us to the credits.
Considering the horror movie slop we get to start each year, The Woman in Black 2 is not terrible. This sequel is so annoyingly average though that it is instantly forgotten once you walk out. The characters are dumb, the ghost is not particularly scary, and it follows the same horror movie tropes that we have seen for a couple decades now. There will come a day where the studios will realize that the quality of each release should be high for all months in the year. Until then get ready for more disappointment with the newly deemed Halloween season.