The Woman in Black 1 & 2
The Woman in Black (January 26/12)
Based on the novel by Susan Hill, The Woman in Black follows Daniel Radcliffe's Arthur Kipps, an early 20th-century lawyer, as he arrives in a small village intending to settle the estate of a recently-deceased individual - with problems ensuing as it becomes increasingly clear that a malicious, malevolent ghost is haunting said estate. It's a decidedly conventional premise that is, at the outset, employed to promising effect by director James Watkins, as the filmmaker, working from Jane Goldman's script, opens the proceedings with a striking pre-credits sequence that immediately sets a tone of low-key eeriness. It goes without saying, then, that the familiarity of what follows is initially not as problematic as one might've feared, with the ongoing emphasis on Radcliffe's character's deliberately-paced exploits - eg Arthur must contend with several suspicious villagers, Arthur explores the creaky old house, etc, etc - generally allayed by Watkins' solid directorial choices and the periodic inclusion of creepy images and interludes (eg Arthur is confronted by a little girl who's just swallowed some lye). There does reach a point, however, at which the repetitive nature of the narrative becomes impossible to comfortably stomach, as much of the movie's midsection is devoted to one scene after another of Arthur's investigation into the spooky happenings within the house. It's inherently tedious stuff that only grows more and more problematic as time progresses, with the increasingly oppressive atmosphere dulling the impact of the film's climactic revelations and ensuring that The Woman in Black ultimately overstays its welcome to a distressingly demonstrable degree.
The Woman in Black: Angel of Death
A seriously underwhelming sequel, The Woman in Black: Angel of Death follows a group of children and their two minders (Phoebe Fox's Eve and Helen McCrory's Jean) as they arrive at the original film's secluded estate to wait out the Second World War - with terror ensuing as it becomes more and more clear that said estate is haunted by a vengeful spirit. It's clear immediately that filmmaker Tom Harper is aiming to replicate the look and feel of James Watkins' mildly superior predecessor, as The Woman in Black: Angel of Death progresses at an often unreasonably deliberate pace and transpires within a series of excessively dark environments - which ensures that the movie is unable to capture one's interest virtually from the word go. Harper spends far too much time dwelling on Eve's investigation into the mysteries of the creepy mansion, with the less-than-engrossing vibe compounded by a plethora of tedious sequences in which the characters explore their grim surroundings. Such interludes are rife with many of the hoariest staples one could possibly envision, as the protagonists come face-to-face with spooky sounds, the sudden appearance of random animals/creatures, and, inevitably, ghostly apparitions. It's ultimately the absence of both a compelling plot and well-developed characters that spells The Woman in Black: Angel of Death's downfall, with Harper overlooking such essential elements in favor of a dogged attempt to establish and cultivate an atmosphere vibe (ie the movie looks great, but who cares?)