In the midst of World War II, a school party heads to the middle of nowhere to escape the bombs. But in choosing spooky Eel Marsh House, they walk away from war and into the hands of cruel ghost Jennet Humfrye.
The thing with ghosts is that they won’t just stay dead. At the end of James Watkins’ 2012 adaptation of Susan Hill’s novel, everybody was expunged, the mystery solved and the earth patted down firmly on top of it all. The phantom’s only logical continuation was as a suspicion of something shifting in the shadows. But it was a hit. Jennet Humfrye would have to rise.
Angel Of Death makes a good fist of distinguishing itself from the first film. The new story, devised by Hill but scripted by Jon Croker, is not a mere retread of the first, at least until the later stages. We’re now in the shudder of World War II, and as bombs forcefully reshape Britain, a young schoolteacher (a gutsy Phoebe Fox) and her headmistress (Helen McCrory) take a gaggle of children off to safety in the country. The most secure place imaginable is the isolated Eel Marsh House. What an utter bind, then, that it happens to be home to a vengeful spirit who passes her time killing children.
The sequel leans harder into the most unsettling element of this series: Jennet does not kill indiscriminately, she entices kids to suicide. Its most frightening sequences see the children standing mute and expressionless, calmly carrying out their own murder under the spell of the bereaved spirit. After all these clever reinventions, though, Angel Of Death struggles for an original conclusion, groping towards a small twist on the first film’s climax as the still dread becomes a more urgent succession of NOISE-quiet-JUMP playbook moves that lose power by repetition. It starts with a confident roar but ends with a diminished gasp.
A much bolder, braver horror sequel than most. Except for a wispy ending, its a match for the first.