31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: THE WOMAN IN BLACK 2: ANGEL OF DEATH

CAST

Helen McCrory (The Queen)
Phoebe Fox (Black Mirror)
Jeremy Irvine (war Horse)
Adrian Rawlins (Harry Potter)

40 years after the events of the first film, bombs drop down on London during the Blitz of World War II. Eve Parkins joins her schoolchildren and the school’s headmistress, Jean Hogg, to evacuate them to the countryside town of Crythin Gifford. On the journey there, Eve meets dashing pilot, Harry Burnstow, who is stationed at an airfield near Crythin Gifford. Upon arrival, Eve is confronted by a raving madman, Jacob, and flees.

Though Eve and Jean do not approve of the place, there is no other alternative. That night, Eve has a nightmare of how she was forced to give up her baby when she was younger; when she awakens, she hears the noise of a rocking chair coming from the house cellar. There, she finds a message, scolding her for letting her child go, and sees a woman dressed in black. The next morning, one of the children, Edward, who has been mute since the death of his parents in a bombing, is bullied by two other children and sees the Woman in Black in the nursery. Eve feels that something is wrong when Edward starts constantly carrying around a rotten doll. That night, one of the boys that was bullying him is drawn out of the house by the Woman in Black; Eve finds his body on the beach.

Eve later sees the Woman in the graveyard, where she finds the grave of Nathaniel Drablow. She chases the ghost to the beach and is overcome by visions of Nathaniel’s death. At the house, she and Harry establish the story of the ghost through an old record made by Alice Drablow before her death at the hands of the Woman in Black: it is her sister, Jennet Humpfrye, the mother of the child she adopted, Nathaniel. Jennet is haunting them because of Nathaniel’s premature death, and is punishing Eve in particular for giving up her baby. Eve journeys into the abandoned town to confront Jacob, who is blind and therefore unable to be killed by the ghost, as he cannot see her. However, he has been driven insane by the deaths of all the other children and tries to kill Eve before she escapes.

Back at the house, Jean finds one of the girls trying to strangle herself under the Woman’s spell. During an air raid, the girl suffocates herself using a gas mask. After this death, Harry takes them to his airfield, which is revealed to be fake. Eve realizes the Woman has followed them. Edward flees, where he apparently dies by walking into a fire basket. Eve finds out that Edward is still alive and at Eel Marsh House. Realizing the Woman in Black wants her alone, she drives to the island, where she finds Edward walking out into the marsh to drown himself where Nathaniel died. She crawls after him, but they are dragged down into the mud by the ghost. At the last minute, Harry arrives and saves them, though he is dragged down to his death instead.

Months later, Eve has adopted Edward, and they are living in London. Although they believe they are free from the ghost, once they leave their house, she appears again and smashes a picture of Harry.It does what it says on the tin, and there’s nothing wrong with that – and it’s a damned sight better than many horror sequels that are simply remakes of the first movie. Yes, it could have been better, but it zips along quite briskly and yet still manages to pack a punch when it needs to. Not bad at all.

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31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: THE WOMAN IN BLACK

CAST

Daniel Radcliffe (Horns)
Ciarán Hinds (Game of Thrones)
Janet McTeer (Insurgent)
Liz White (Our Zoo)
Sophie Stuckey (I Capture The Castle)
Misha Handley (Parade’s End)

In an English village, Crythin Gifford, in 1889, three young girls are having a tea party with their dolls. They suddenly look up at something off-screen and, as though hypnotized, jump to their deaths from the bedroom window.

Some years later, in Edwardian era London, widowed lawyer and father Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is instructed to visit Crythin Gifford to orchestrate the sale of Eel Marsh House, an estate on the marshland, and retrieve any relevant documents left by the deceased owner Alice Drablow. Upon arrival, Arthur finds many of the villagers rather unwelcoming, though he finds sympathy in a wealthy local landowner Samuel Daily (Ciarán Hinds).

The next morning, Arthur goes to meet his legal contact, Mr. Jerome, who tries to hurry him away from the village. Arthur, undeterred, travels to Eel Marsh. During his initial visit to the house, Arthur is distracted by odd noises, a bolted nursery, and the appearance of a spectral entity in funerary garb. He hears sounds on the marshes of a carriage in distress and a screaming child, but sees nobody on the causeway. He later attempts to alert the village constable, who dismisses him. Two children enter the station with their sister Victoria, who has ingested lye, and subsequently vomits blood, dying.

That night, Sam reveals that he and his wife Elisabeth (Janet McTeer) lost their young son to drowning. Elisabeth suffers from fits of hysteria, which she attributes to her boy speaking through her. When Sam attempts to drive Arthur to Eel Marsh the next day, a fleet of local men attempt to drive him off. Victoria’s father blames Arthur for his daughter’s death, as Arthur saw “that woman” at Eel Marsh.

At the house, Arthur uncovers correspondence between Alice and her sister Jennet Humfrye (Liz White). In her letters, Jennet denies Alice’s verdict that she is “mentally unfit” and demands to see her son Nathaniel, whom the Drablows formally adopted and barred her from contacting. A death certificate reveals that Nathaniel drowned in a carriage accident on the marsh. Jennet blames Alice for saving only herself and leaving Nathaniel’s body in the marsh. Jennet hangs herself in the nursery, vowing never to forgive Alice. Arthur also sees visions of dead children in the marshes, Victoria among them.

Arthur finds the nursery no longer locked. Inside, he has a vision of the Woman in Black hanging herself, alarming him. In town, Jerome’s house catches fire with his daughter still inside. When Arthur attempts to save her, he sees the Woman in Black goading the girl into immolating herself. The townspeople blame Arthur for this death as well.

At her son’s grave, Elisabeth tells Arthur that the Woman in Black is Jennet, who claims the souls of the village children by having them take their lives in penance for her own son being taken. Through another episode of delirium, she informs him that his son Joseph, who is coming to Crythin Gifford that night, is Jennet’s next victim. In an effort to lift the curse, Arthur and Sam find Nathaniel’s body in the carriage on the marsh, and place it in his nursery, where Arthur lures Jennet to him. Arthur and Sam bury Nathaniel with Jennet, though her voice echoes through the house that she will never forgive the wrongs she suffered.

Assuming Jennet pacified, Arthur and his son Joseph meet at the railway station. While bidding farewell to Sam, Arthur sees the Woman in Black lure Joseph onto the tracks towards an oncoming train. Though he attempts to save him, both Arthur and Joseph are killed by the oncoming train while a horrified Sam sees the spirits of the village children, and the Woman in Black. After the train passes, Joseph spots a woman on the tracks, and Arthur identifies her as his late wife, the family now happily reunited. The Woman in Black watches them walk away, before sharply turning to face the audience, at which point the screen turns black.

Daniel Radcliffe is perfectly cast in this role, as Arthur Kipps, and plays it brilliantly. This version is truer to the book than the 1989 TV version, This film was a long time coming. An Excellent Horror.

31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: THE QUIET ONES

CAST

Jared Harris (Pompeii)
Sam Claflin (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Erin Richards (Gotham)
Rory Fleck Byrne (Bodies)
Olivia Cooke (Bates Motel)

Having hit the international jackpot with “The Woman in Black,” the revived Hammer Films label follows up with a title that lacks that haunted-house pic’s familiarity of source material, highly accessible premise and equivalently marketable star. Instead, “The Quiet Ones” presents rising actor Sam Claflin as an average guy participating in an ethically dubious scientific experiment into psychic disturbance. The 1970s setting offers a retro feel that should strike appealing chords for fans of old-school horror.May 1974, Oxford. Local lad Brian McNeil (Claflin), who works in the university’s audiovisual unit, is projecting archival research material to accompany a lecture delivered by paranormal psychology expert Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris). Would the young man be willing to film the professor’s potentially groundbreaking work with a profoundly disturbed woman named Jane Harper. The treatment seems less than academically rigorous — for some reason, Jane is subjected to music hits such as Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” at deafening volumes — but an intrigued Brian agrees.

After getting shut down by a nervous university establishment, Coupland’s pet project is happily relocated to more photogenic accommodations in a sprawling country estate. There, the professor, the cameraman and two romantically entangled students — Krissi (Erin Richards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) — hunker down with traumatized Jane in a bid to monitor and extract her “negative brain energy.” “Cure one patient, we cure mankind,” declares a messianic Coupland.

Exactly how the university employees and students are able to abruptly abandon their jobs and studies in the middle of the summer term — or where, for that matter, Brian’s footage (which is in fact shot digitally on the Arri Alexa) is being developed and printed — is left to the viewer’s imagination. Instead, attention is pulled toward the highly arresting Jane and her malignant alter ego, Evey, who resides in a child’s plastic doll. B

An easy diagnosis for Jane would be demonic possession, especially when devilish symbols start appearing on skin, and the temperature of Krissi’s bath water is raised to the boiling point, even after she and Harry have returned to the ostensible safety of campus. Really, just how far can Jane’s negative telekinetic energy go? But Coupland resists any supernatural explanations, stubbornly clinging to his own scientific hypothesis right up until the hectic climax.The presence of Brian’s camera gives director John Pogue (“Quarantine 2: Terminal”) plenty of opportunity to throw in found-footage verite as well as jittery handheld sequences, and few will worry too much about the film’s lax standards with regard to its self-filmed conceit. The opening credits make use of that oft-abused expression “inspired by actual events,” and indeed, the story here is based on an actual case in which Toronto researchers attempted to harvest their own emotional energy. The big leap from that particular scientific investigation to the freaky occurrences depicted here needn’t trouble us unduly, but the fact remains that Dr. A.R.G. Owen’s real-life “Philip Experiment” doesn’t sound interesting enough to give Lionsgate and Hammer much of an additional marketing hook equivalent to, say, the paranormal investigators whose work inspired “The Conjuring.”