The first wide release of 2015 is a deathly dull affair, a pointless, passionless ghost story sequel that lacks the one big thing the original film’s star provided -- empathy. There’s no Daniel Radcliffe in “Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death,” and thus no reason for it to be made.
This time, the horrors are set in World War II, when a group of British children are evacuated from London during The Blitz. Eight lucky kids are sent beyond the reach of Nazi bombers. But they’re deposited in Eel Marsh House, where a ghostly woman still covets the living, luring them to various creative deaths, often in the tidal marshes that surround the island.
Phoebe Fox plays Eve Parkins, a pretty young teacher who shares the duty of looking after the kids with Mrs. Hogg (Helen McCrory). They haven’t even made it to the house when Eve is spooked, and sparked by a young pilot (Jeremy Irvine) from the nearby airfield.
“Don’t look, you MUSTN’T look,” the last crazed local in the village shrieks.
“How on EARTH are you going to stay sane here?” possible new-beau Harry (Irvine) cracks.
Little Edward (Oaklee Pendergast) was so traumatized by the bombing that killed his parents that he won’t speak. He just draws creepy pencil sketches, which shows us and Eve that someone is after the boy. Eve, of course, has her own issues - nightmares that take her to a bloody hospital ward. Everybody has something to fear at Eel Marsh, as the kids start wandering off and dying off.
For a gloomy, fog-shrouded ghost story, “Black 2” is entirely too bright. A dank dark cellar, a spooky hallway or street lose their terror when too much light is applied.
Young Ms. Fox, a veteran of British TV, plays Eve as blandly matter of fact about the supernatural goings on at Eel Marsh. There’s little pathos in this performance, even when we learn about her “secret.” The kid doesn’t generate much automatic sympathy, the potential love story has no spark. And the disbelieving Mrs. Hogg is thinly drawn, not irritating or hateful enough to root against or hope she is served her comeuppance.
A few cheap jolts is all director Tom Harper can manage in this minimal gloom, nothing that suggests there was any more reason to make this other than a hit brand-name title and return access to a location whose frights were used up in “Woman in Black I.”