I'll say this for The Woman In Black 2: Angel Of Death: the movie looks great. From the crisp costume design to the rickety modes of transportation seen shuttling characters from one dilapidated locale to the next, there's an attention to detail here that one might normally expect to encounter in a prestige period picture, not a half-assed horror sequel. So before we get to the bad news, let's all take a moment to appreciate just how good this movie looks.
And now, the bad news.
Director Tom Harper's The Woman In Black 2 (or WIB2, if you're nasty) is an absolute chore to sit through, one of the most generic, un-frightening horror films I've come across in a very long time. Every element the film has working in its favor (an obviously above-average budget, a likable newcomer named Phoebe Fox in the lead role, the fact that a whole bunch of people were pleasantly surprised by this sequel's 2012 predecessor) is undermined constantly by a boring, by-the-numbers story that's clearly been cobbled together from a dozen better haunted house flicks. Nothing in WIB2 will surprise you, nothing will register as unique, nothing will scare you.
Well, okay, maybe that's not entirely true. When the film kicked off several decades after the events of the first film - in War World II-era London, to be precise, with desperate Londoners cowering underground as German planes rain hell on them from above - I was intrigued: I hadn't expected that, and wondered if something interesting might come of it. Turns out, the time and place are largely inconsequential to everything that follows. Soon enough, we're whisked away to Eel Marsh House (the run-down manse that gave Daniel Radcliffe what-for in the first Woman In Black), and the WW2 stuff becomes a footnote.
What moves to the forefront are jump scares. Lots and lots and lots of jump scares. All of which you've seen a thousand times before, and can predict to the millisecond if you're even remotely aware how editing and soundtrack tend to be employed within the horror genre. Character looking through a dirty window at something off in the distance, and suddenly everything goes quiet? Check. Character looks under a bed, with an accompanying wide-angle POV shot? It's here! Character pulls back the sheet on a body, expecting the worst? Yup, Harper knows that one, too. Folks, Woman In Black 2 plays alllll the hits. But by the time Harper starts cross-cutting between multiple scenes in order to stack jump-scares on top of one other, the film drops the foreplay and bores straight into self-parody territory.
I'm as immune to this brand of horror as I am annoyed by it. This isn't horror, it's just loud noises punctuating lengthy stretches of boring dialogue and foggy establishing shots (indeed, had it not been for the occasional explosion on the soundtrack, WIB2 would've been a great film to take a much-deserved nap through). We don't care about the characters or whatever plot device is driving them from one scene to the next - the story revolves around an impromptu orphanage being set up inside Eel Marsh House; the rest of the plot has already evaporated from my memory - and as a result, the stakes are so low as to be non-existent. Literally the only card this movie has to play is loud noises and quick edits.
But here's the thing: the middle-aged couple sitting to my right got their asses kicked by this movie. They screamed during every jump-scare, they started breathing heavily whenever a character wandered into a particularly nasty-looking room, they said things like "Oh, my goodness!" after every death. For them, this film played like gangbusters. I watched them walk out of the theater as the credits rolled, and lemme tell ya: they were thrilled with the experience. Thrilled!
Conclusion? Woman In Black 2 is entry-level horror for entry-level horror viewers. It's the kind of film you could recommend to your parents the next time they're looking for "something spooky!", a horror film without much gore and plenty of startling noises in place of anything genuinely disturbing. For some people, that's a perfect scary movie experience. The rest of you can skip this one entirely (or, better yet, rewatch the superior-in-every-way original).