Making the Grades
Of all the genres on the big screen I’m convinced the least amount of creativity is invested into horror movies. I’m seeing more directors aiming for young audiences where they have the advantage of rehashing the same dozen scare techniques to viewers that will find these ideas “new.” Yes, I’ve sat through far too many squeaky floors, doors and bores—but there must be some novel ways to make us jump in our seats without resorting to a kid wearing a gas mask suddenly pushing his face into the camera lens, accompanied by a barrage of ear-piercing sound. The situation reminds me of when my children would gouge their fingers into my ribs and claim I was ticklish. I’m not frightened: I’m simply flinching from discomfort!
Yes, I’m looking at you, Woman in Black 2. Director Tom Harper has a great location (the same old rickety house where the first film was set) and some decent talent to work with. But he hasn’t figured out how to time those bumps in the night.
There is also a big loophole in a very foundation of the concept. Daniel Radcliffe’s character had the boots scared off of him just 40 years earlier in the same house. Now it’s being used to shelter a small group of orphans and their two caretakers during the London raids of WWII. It seems peculiar that the earlier happenings in the home wouldn’t have resulted in a reputation known far and wide. Ironically, these kids are in more danger out in the countryside than they would have been had they stayed in the big city with Nazi planes buzzing overhead.
Eve Parkins (Phoebe Fox) is the assistant to Mistress Jean Hogg (Helen McCrory). Not long after they get their little charges settled into the ramshackle mansion, mysterious things begin to happen. Eve has nightmares that center around a child. Upon awakening she does what any young woman in a nightgown would do—she beings exploring the old dwelling in the middle of the night, looking for the source of a strange noise. During her jaunt she catches a glimpse of something, convincing her that someone else living in the house. Of course the older Jean doesn’t believe her, but one of the boys in her care does. Edward (Oaklee Pendergast) appears to be under the influence of some mysterious force and his strange behavior engenders sympathy and protection from Eve. She will ultimately spend the remainder of the movie running about and screaming “EDWARD!” from the top of her lungs.
Violent content will be the greatest concern for families, and they can expect the depiction of a young character who is seen dead and one who attempts suicide using a ball of yarn around the neck. Another scene appears to show a shrouded body hanging from the ceiling. Of course there are a variety of frightening scenes and scary images too—many involving faces with glassy-opaque eyes, along with dolls and old tin toys (including a clichéd cymbal monkey). However, there are no bloody murders, no satanic worship and nary a chainsaw in sight. As well, sexual content is limited to the mention of a baby born out of wedlock and profanities include only name-calling and a single, mild religious expletive.
Although some teens might be fresh enough to overlook the stale script, experienced viewers will notice this production is missing the satisfying fear that can be created through the subtle use of images and sound. And what little story exists is fragmented, leading to an ambiguous conclusion. All I can say is, if this Woman in Black hopes to spook a third time—she will need to up her game.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death.
More About The Movie “The Blitz” was a term referring to the bombing campaign by the Germans against cities in England during World War II. Learn more about the evacuation of children during World War II on this page from the BBC that is written at a grade-school level.
Talk about the movie with your family… This movie utilizes many tried and true scare techniques, like squeaky doors and abrupt sounds. Why do we find these techniques frightening? Would they be as terrifying if we had not been trained by media to interpret them this way?