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Non-Review Review: Woman in Black – Angel of Death

Horror sequels are notoriously difficult beasts. Much like comedy sequels, there’s the inevitable conflict between what the audience wants and what the audience has seen before. If you plan on replicating the jump scares too faithfully, why not watch the original? If you want to do something fresh, why bother sticking the name on the front? It is an interesting challenge facing film makers, and it’s something that shows. It is very hard to think of a horror sequel that competes on the same level as the original, let alone surpasses it.

Woman in Black: Angel of Death finds itself stuck in that trap. The original Woman in Black was very much a classic Hammer Horror film, a movie more about suggestion and scale than blood and guts. Never afraid to reinforce a jump scare with an orchestra string section, there was something quite endearing and old-fashioned about the way that Woman in Black conducted itself. It was an affectionate throwback to a style of horror largely forgotten in this day and age.

"Gee... I wonder what could possibly be in this creepy basement at this hour of the night..."

“Gee… I wonder what could possibly be in this creepy basement at this hour of the night…”

Given the success of Woman in Black, a sequel was inevitable. However, Angel of Death faces a lot of the issues that tend to plague horror sequels – cast attrition, a sense of familiarity, a sense that most of the best tricks have already been used. To be fair, Angel of Death holds itself together reasonably well for its first two acts. There are creaky moments, and a sense that the movie is trying to hit too many familiar notes. However, the script comes off the rails in the third act, as the film stops trying to imitate its predecessor and attempts to offer something new.

Sadly, the third act simply doesn’t work, bouncing between an air field and a supernatural hostage crisis. The result is that Angel of Death collapses in on itself – leading to the sense that this is a rather disappointing sequel.

Sadly, Chris deBurgh has yet to provide a theme song for the series. Maybe next time?

Sadly, Chris deBurgh has yet to provide a theme song for the series. Maybe next time?

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Non-Review Review: When the Lights Went Out

At its best, When the Lights Went Out feels like a cinematic throwback, almost like The Woman in Black. While The Woman in Black harked back to a period of classic British horror, the height of Hammer’s gothic schtick, When the Lights Went Out feels like an affectionate homage to the urban haunting movies of the seventies, like The Amityville Horror with a Yorkshire accent. Although the final third comes off the rails in a fairly massive way, there’s enough charm and nostalgia to keep When the Lights Went Out entertaining for most of its runtime. It’s not just the setting and the aesthetic that hark back to the seventies, but also the tone and the mood.

I hope she’s not left hanging…

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Non-Review Review: The Woman in Black

The Woman in Black is a stately, old-fashioned horror film – the kind of Victorian era ghost story that I honestly feared had vanished from the multiplex. James Watkins’ adaptation of Susie Hill’s cult 1983 horror novel revels in the classic horror conventions, complete with jump scares, a stylish atmosphere and a hyperactive orchestral string section. It’s very much a loving resurrection of the type of classy conventional scary movies that have been replaced by serial killer or found footage films. There are moments when the movie might stick a little bit too close to that classic formula, and it feels a little brisk in the middle, but it’s a hugely enjoyable and thrilling experience.

Potter at the gates at dawn?

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