What the critics are saying: ‘The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death’

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TORONTO — British thriller The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death has arrived in theatres crowded with big movies.

Set during World War II, Angel of Death uses a new story by Susan Hill, upon whose novel the first movie was based.

It starts with schoolchildren, evacuated from London, sent to live in the Eel Marsh House, which remains haunted by the titular ghost.

Does The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death have what it takes to scare up ticket sales? Here’s a look at some of the reviews.

“I can’t think of any other way in which this film improves on the chilling original,” opined Brian Viner in the Daily Mail, “maybe because it is principally a commercial, not an artistic exercise.”

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Vine said director Tom Harper “pieces it all together stylishly” but “can’t quite bring himself to abide by the golden rule of classic horror films: they are less about what’s put in than what’s left out.”

The style of the movie is cited in Variety, where Scott Foundas described The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death as “a handsomely made but dramatically inert and not very scary sequel.”

He found the movie to be “a talkier, more drawn-out affair than its spare, elegant predecessor.”

Foundas added: “Harper manages a couple of reasonably jolting scares, mostly through shock edits and sudden shrieks on the soundtrack — or surges of the musical score … but a truly memorable ghost story needs more than that.”

At Bloody Disgusting, Kalyn Corrigan described Angel of Death as “a pretty entertaining movie.”

She wrote: “In a world where we’ve come to expect sequels to be half the film that the original was, The Woman in Black 2 is a refreshing second installment to a promising series. I’d argue that there’s plenty of room for this franchise to grow, and I look forward to the next chapter.”

Geoffrey MacNab of The Independent pointed out the film’s ending “suggests we won’t have to wait too long for the next sequel.”

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But MacNab wasn’t thrilled by the thriller, which he found to be “more like a visit to a ghoulish fairground attraction than it does a proper horror movie.”

He wrote: “There are plenty of moments that will make you jolt and shudder but the story itself is frighteningly thin … Some of its shock tactics are silly and derivative.”

READ MORE: What the critics are saying about other recent movies

Jordan Hoffman of the New York Daily News said the movie’s “darkened rooms and spooky fog” are “undeniably gorgeous” but suggested teen horror fans will be bored.

“The 1940s setting gives the film’s first half some unearned gravity, but by the end the jump-scares and rote plot frightens away the good will,” he wrote.

At The National in Abu Dhabi, Chris Newbould seemed to love Angel of Death.

“There’s not too much blood, gore or ridiculous CGI effects. But there are plenty of jumps, scares and tense moments that make you think, ‘Why can’t all horror films be like this? I just want to be made to jump out of my seat.’

“And Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death does this very well.”

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Newbould said the sequel is better than the original.

Sara Stewart didn’t agree. The New York Post reviewer wasn’t impressed by the “cheap scares” in the film.

“You know the type: cawing birds suddenly flapping into the frame, doors slamming shut, undead old ladies screaming in your face,” she wrote.

“If there’s unearned viewer shrieks, it must be January!”

The director, Stewart opined, “defaults too often to gotcha scares, which is disappointing; these wartime characters, and their setup, could have made another quality period chiller like the first one.

“As it is, the film descends into ordinariness.”

At USA Today, Claudia Puig agreed.

“It’s mostly deadly dull, and when it does liven up a tad, the haunted house tale offers only wan shock tactics,” she wrote. “The film’s intriguing production design and serviceable performances are undermined by the plethora of horror movie tropes: lurid dolls, ghostly faces popping up, rhythmic knocks, bumps and jump-jolts.”

Puig complimented the production design as “admirably stately” but complained the movie “never manages to be as unsettling as it seeks to be” or “as involving or spookily atmospheric as the original.”

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She added: “The story adheres strictly to trite formula: Must every emotionally scarred child latch on to a sinister-looking doll? Do all rocking chairs have to rhythmically sway in the middle of the night with no one in them?

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death is handsome-looking but unlikely to make pulses race, spines shiver or hearts pound.”

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