The Woman in Black: Angel of Death (2014)

Starring: Phoebe Fox, Helen McCrory, Jeremy Irvine, Oaklee Prendergast, Leanne Best, Adrian Rawlins, Ned Dennehy

Directed by: Tom Harper

Rating: 1 2 3

Edward (Oaklee Prendergast) and Eve (Phoebe Fox) in The Woman in Black: Angel of Death

I know, it's a guilty horror pleasure, but I really rather loved The Woman in Black, Hammer's hokey but delightfully spine-chilling adaptation of Susan Hill's famous ghost story. So l couldn't resist the opportunity to come back for more as the skull-faced, black veiled woman returns in this inevitable sequel. And more – of the same – is exactly what I got.

Forty or so years on from Daniel Radcliffe's ill-fated sojourn in Eel Marsh House, its creaky doors are thrown open once more to welcome a group of wartime evacuees and their teachers into its clammy, decrepit embrace. (Doubtless by the inevitable Woman in Black 3 the house will have become a home for unmarried mothers, or an orphanage, or something equally unsuitable – a school for the study of ballet and the occult perhaps?)

The Woman in BlackThe years have not been kind to the crumbling mansion, which now more than ever resembles the archetypal haunted house of nightmares, complete with peeling wallpaper, guttering lights, creepy toys and the world's loudest rocking chair thumping and groaning in the nursery. Never has a piece of furniture been so darned sinister...

This time round our central protagonist, like her dark nemesis, is female. Young, doe-eyed, primary school teacher Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox) has come to Eel Marsh House with head teacher Jean (Helen McCrory) to look after the displaced London children, and in particular silent orphan Edward, whose parents have been killed in the Blitz. But of course Eve is not the only one who has her eye on the lonely, slightly eerie little boy. The Woman is waiting...

Phoebe Fox and Helen McCrory in The Woman in Black: Angel of DeathOkay, so The Woman in Black 2 is not as good as its predecessor: it's not nearly as emotionally compelling and, like The Conjuring, it feels a bit too designed by committee. But despite that, also like James Wan's scare-a-minute creepy doll/haunted house/possession fest, it still works, the gloomy sets and achingly lonely setting creating a pervasive sense of insidious wrongness, punctuated by the obligatory jump scares that aren't all dead birds slamming into windows.

Fox gives a solid performance as Eve, but it's a shame the wonderful Helen McCrory isn't given more to do – the film would have been far more interesting if we' d seen her starchy headmistress descend into ghost-obsessed craziness, before confronting the Woman in a Harry Potter-esque supernatural showdown. Oh well, there's always episode 3. 'Is she gone?'asks Edward near the end of the film. No my dear, she really, really isn't...

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