Directed by: Tom Harper Screenplay by: Jon Croker Story by: Susan Hill Cinematography by: George Steel Music by: Marco Beltrami, Brandon Roberts, and Marcus Trumpp
Premise: Forty years after the last visitor stayed at Eel Marsh House, two teachers and a gaggle of students come to the house to escape the bombings in London during WWII. Tom, one of the students under Eve Parkin's, care lost his mother right before the group left London. His grief draws the Woman in Black, yet it is Eve Parkin's secret that draws out her ire. (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Phoebe Fox was delightful as Eve Parkins. From her concern for her charges to the very 'stiff upper lip' attitude, it was easy to read her fears and feelings. Helen McCrory gave Jean Hogg an air of efficiency and certainty, and later strength. Jude Wright as Tom made you feel for him as he attempts to deal with his recent tragedy. Jeremy Irvine was perfect as the young pilot and possible love interest, and made his portrayal all the more poignant when other information is revealed.
2) Special Effects - Total Thumbs Up: Just as in the old days, the one thing Hammer films always excelled at was atmosphere. And with the amazing special effects now available, Hammer has taken their craft to new levels as they mix the old with the new.
Rather than resort to typical scare fest tactics, the film makers go more for the creepy - the flicker of movement just at the corner of the eye, a creeping hand, doors that unlock themselves, disturbing visuals. The loud thumping permeating the house, like a gigantic heart, growing less and less the close you come, until you find a rocking chair going back and forth in a dark corner with no one sitting there.
They have a lot of fun with fire at the airfield. And the house is creepier than ever. The road and the rising water and the marsh - great stuff.
The scene in the water towards the end was a lovely piece of work as well.
3) Plot/Story - Total Thumbs Up: My husband and I didn't see the first Woman in Black at the theaters. We're not big into modern jump horror. But the draw of the time period it was set in, the fact Daniel Radcliffe was starring in it, and that it was a Hammer Film, got us to watch it on TV. We loved it - it had all the elements we liked, creepy but not a scare fest, had a mystery, and was fun. So when we saw there was going to be a Woman In Black 2, we decided to definitely see it on the big screen. I wasn't sure how they could pull another one after the first, but they did!
As with the first film, the time was set in an interesting time period - 1940s, during the London bombings and the exodus of children out to remote locations to keep them safe. Like in the first film, there are mysteries entwined in the plot, but this time they relate more to those coming to the house than the ghost in the house. And hints begin even before the group arrives at the house.
Subliminally, many social beliefs of the time are brought out for inspection by the modern film viewer - how one was expected to deal with grief and loss, the expectations on women and men of the period, the harsh realities of war, and the extremes of keeping a brave face and avoiding scandal (keep an eye on the parents in the recurring hospital scene - speaks volumes!). The glimpse into the lives of those in London said a lot as well.
As with the first film, hubby and I had a ton of fodder to talk about once it was over. I love the duality they play with with regards to the Woman In Black herself. If just studied on the surface, she seems to be an evil, vindictive creature - but in fact, at least after Arthur Kipps helped her in the first film, she's turned into a more nurturing and sane creature. But the states of life and death mean nothing to her - they are states of being - and not something she cares about one way or another. So if to teach you a lesson or to reward you means you have to die, so be it. So when you look at matters from that perspective, it opens up a whole new way of seeing the events presented in the film.
4) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: For those who saw the first film, you won't recognize the village. In many ways, it was creepier than the Eel Marsh House! The haunted house itself showed aging, wear and tear, yet other things within it were almost pristine, as if guarded. The hallway upstairs was as long and foreboding as ever. The marsh, the cemetery, and that long winding piece of road with the encroaching water - still super creepy. The lonely view from the upstairs window and the cross always in view. Very nice!
Conclusion: If you like your horror to be spooky, filled with mystery, and all things supernatural, this film is for you! Great mood, great settings, perfect for creepy story time.
Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)