Despite a somewhat underdeveloped plot, the movie adaptation of The Woman in Black was perceived to be such a success by its producers that they wanted to make a sequel. However, there hadn’t been a second novel. Determined not for this potentially lucrative opportunity to be wasted, they enlisted original author Susan Hill to come up with a brand new storyline.
This was over three decades after the book was published, and on the whole it was a very interesting concept – that of creating a second movie to act as a sequel to an original movie that was based as a standalone novel. Hope this all makes sense.
For those who haven’t seen the film – subtitled Angel of Death, it is set around 40 years after the events of the original, so right in the middle of the Second World War. A group of evacuees including a silent orphan called Edward are sent to Eel Marsh House in the village of Crythin Gifford, along with their carers, one of whom is an inwardly troubled lady called Miss Parkins.
On the train to Crythin Gifford – just as Arthur Kipps meets Samuel Daily in the first film, Miss Parkins has her first encounter with a young pilot called Harry, and they take an instant shine to each other. Soon after arriving at Eel Marsh House and being shown around by a former doctor of medicine, Edward – who is being bullied by one of his peers – soon clasps his eyes on the Woman in Black and is subsequently possessed.
This goes on to result in the deaths of two of his fellow evacuees and Miss Parkins becomes increasingly distressed, making the Woman in Black her obsession. Along with Harry, she goes on to find some gramophone recordings in the basement which emit the voice of former homeowner Alice Drablow, revealing her torment at being haunted by the ghost of Jennet Humfrye.
After being forced to escape to Harry’s fake airfield, Edward is lured back to Eel Marsh House and is in the act of drowning when Miss Parkins hurries back and discovers him. They are being pulled down into the water by the Woman in Black until Harry appears as if by magic and saves them (I say this because Miss Parkins stole his jeep).
Just like the end of the first movie, the characters think that the Woman In Black is gone forever, but in the closing shot a photograph of the sacrificed Harry is mysteriously smashed…A good end to what is a reasonably good movie, if badly thought through on the odd occasion.
The characters are completely original having not appeared in a published work, so although there is not a great time for development the personalities of Miss Parkins and Harry are well established by the end, while the use of Edward as almost a host for the Woman in Black makes for quite a creepy spectacle.
The most impressive yet questionable additional feature is the recordings of Alice Drablow. These help to place more emphasis and shed more light on how the Woman in Black came into being, and will have been looked upon with fondness by fans of the original book who may have felt that the first film was a little lacking in backstory. On the other hand – how did Arthur Kipps not discover such a key piece of evidence while he was trawling through Eel Marsh House???
All in all it was a very brave step from the filmmakers when they pitched the idea of a movie sequel. They had to be innovative and find a way of manipulating the original story into creating a new one with very little to go on – even with Susan Hill’s help. While not an unqualified success, they could have done a much worse job and so deserve credit for making the most of the opportunity they created for themselves. The Woman in Black is a fascinating creation and the producers were right in thinking that we wanted to see more of her.