Angel of death could mean death to viewers

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First Posted: 1/5/2015

It’s January which means your entertainment options are now limited to glaring at snow from the relative comforts of your kitchen window or flipping off your reflection in the bathroom mirror (I may be projecting my seasonal affective disorder on you, the reader on the toilet, but I kind of doubt it).

So, during this miserable time of the year, you might be tempted to see a movie. You might even be tempted to see “The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death.” But before you buy that ticket, let me ask you this, is your idea of a good time to stand in front of John Constable’s ‘The Hay Wain’ – or any other oil painting depicting the English countryside – for almost 100 minutes as someone periodically sneaks up behind you and blows an air horn into your ear? If the is answer is yes, then by all means, buy all of the “Woman in Black” tickets you can and throw yourself a merry little “Angel-of-Deathmas.” But for everyone else, you might want to go back to your bathroom and gently remind the person that lives inside your mirror how much you hate them.

Continuing Hollywood’s now apparently permanent trend of unnecessary and unwanted sequels, “The Woman in Black 2” takes place 40 years after the events of the first movie. Apart from the titular woman in black, there doesn’t seem to be any real connection between the two films. Which, at the very least, is not only good news for people who may be going into this movie cold, but also for those who’ve seen the first film and can only remember that Daniel Radcliffe was in it, or, that one scene where a pair of tiny dogs are dressed up in sailor suits and then placed in a high chair. At any rate, during World War II, a caretaker (Helen McCrory) and her assistant (Phoebe Fox) round up a small group of recently orphaned children and relocate them from war-torn London to a much safer place. Such as a decaying, Victorian mansion with an ominous past that is smack dab in the middle of nowhere and basically functions as an, oh-so inviting target to any enemy jet fighter that might be passing overhead.

You know, that kind of safe.

Of course, unbeknownst to McCrory, Fox and their interchangeably creepy little wards, the woman from the first film is back and blacker than ever as she gets death all over the place. I mean all over. It’s in the basement, the dayroom, just everywhere. It’s nuts! From there, a handsome man (Jeremy Irvine) lies about being a pilot and kind of makes things worse for everybody. Eventually a fake airfield happens, a character suddenly remembers they were pregnant at one point and a sequel is heavily inferred (which should, undoubtedly, be going directly to Netflix sometime next year).

Ugh and oof. Just ugh and oof, everybody. Usually I’m annoyed whenever a horror movie heavily relies on jump scares because there’s something cheap and desperate about suddenly turning the volume all the way up just to get an easy reaction from your audience. However, in “The Woman in Black 2,” those jump scares are oddly welcomed. Granted, in real life the clatter of a blind man suddenly appearing or one person slightly jostling another person rarely sounds like twenty 747s crashing into a grenade and fireworks factory, but in “The Woman in Black 2” those obnoxious sound effects are the only things keeping you awake. Unlike its predecessor, which had moments of unrestrained weirdness and brief attempts at black comedy, “The Woman in Black 2” is a yawn-inducing triptych through every known cliché in the ghost house genre (creepy kids drawing creepy kid pictures, lingering close-ups of deteriorating antique toys, British people, etc.) There’s a bland familiarity behind the film that makes it difficult to focus on the storyline or care about the sad-faced stick figures that make up the cast of characters.

Eventually “The Woman in Black 2” becomes the horror movie equivalent to white noise as your reclining theater seat slowly morphs into a choo-choo dream train that’s ready to transport you to the comfy side of Lullaby-Slumber Township. On the plus side, George Steel’s cinematography is pretty to look at. But so is ‘The Hay Wain.’ And I’m sure you could find somebody willing to sneak up behind you and blow an air horn into your ear.