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|The Woman in Black: Angel of Death|
dir Tom Harper
scr Jon Croker
prd Tobin Armbrust, Ben Holden, Richard Jackson, Simon Oakes
with Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Oaklee Pendergast, Adrian Rawlins, Ned Dennehy, Leanne Best, Amelia Pidgeon, Jude Wright, Pip Pearce, Claire Rafferty, Leilah de Meza
release UK/US 1.Jan.15
15/UK Hammer 1h38
Bump in the night: Irvine and Fox
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
A freaky claustrophobic atmosphere and a consistent string of jolts combine to keep the audience squirming in its seat, clinging to each other even though the film never quite goes anywhere interesting. This is bare-basic screenwriting, stringing together seemingly random elements with an intriguing setting just to scare viewers. And it works.
As bombs fall on 1941 London, schoolteacher Eve (Fox) prepares to evacuate students whose parents are unable to leave the city. With headmistress Jean (McCrory), they take eight kids north, including the recently orphaned Edward (Pendergast), who hasn't spoken a word since a bomb landed on his home. On the train, Eve meets dashing airman Harry (Irvine) who is to be stationed near Eel Marsh House, where Eve, Jean and the children will be living. When Dr Rhodes (Rawlins) drops them off there, they discover a house that's not only derelict but also clearly haunted.
"Nonsense," insists Jean, as she tries to instil some backbone into the terrified children. But Eve's personal background opens her up to the creepy noises, nasty visions and glimpses of the Woman in Black (Best), who kills a child every time someone spots her. Yes, this begins to feel like a slasher movie in which the victims are innocent 10-year-olds. Thankfully, the violence remains largely off-screen, but it's seriously nasty stuff, menacing youngsters while tormenting adults with their deepest fears.
Director Harper fills the screen with shocks, red herrings and some genuinely set-up suspense, never hinting at what will happen next. Not that it matters; the screenplay never hangs together logically, bouncing from one scary set piece to the next. And in Eel Marsh House, there's no lack of nightmarish settings, from the cluttered cellar and weather-beaten graveyard to the ever-rising tide and of course that nasty nursery.
The actors do what they can to liven things up. Fox and Irvine stir in some mild romantic attraction. McCrory does the earnest, no-nonsense headmistress rather hilariously well. And the kids are refreshingly natural even when things turn supernatural around them. So it's frustrating that nothing much is made of the period, the parent-child themes or even the idea that these children are far from their homes. And of course the floor of the village train station would be a more hospitable place for them to ride out the Blitz. But that kind of movie wouldn't make your heart skip a few beats.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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