Fiction Reviews

The Woman in Black: The Sequel Angel of Death

(2013) Martyn Waites, Hammer, £9.99, hrdbk, 330pp, ISBN 978-009-9-58849-8


Be afraid, be very afraid, because The Woman in Black: The Sequel Angel of Death is… wait for it…, based on an original idea by Susan Hill, who in case you don’t know – because you’ve flipped forward in time, or landed on an alien spaceship, or come from sort of alternative reality where The Woman in Black doesn’t exist – is the author of the original novel, which spawned the long-running West End play and the 2012 film starring Daniel Radcliffe which became the highest-grossing British horror film in British horror film history: not that that necessarily makes it the best film you understand just the highest grossing.

And here we have a novelisation of a sequel film spawned by an idea, so need I say more?

Oh, alright then, if you must. It is now 1940, and it’s World War Two and in order to escape the London Blitz a group of children and their school teacher are decanted to the scariest, spookiest house in Britain, Ell Marsh House. Yep, it is bad enough being one of those feckless, edgit teenagers, fuelled up by sex, drugs and booze, driving off with their mates to that cabin or whatever in the woods. Those doomed teenagers might have a semblance of choice, but these schoolchildren have no choice, they are being sent away to be saved after all. So cue for young teacher Eve Parkins and her evacuated children to head to Eel Marsh House, not the place top of your destination list because it’s haunted by Jennet Humfrye, the Woman in Black, who was driven mad by seeing her only child sucked underground next to the causeway that connected the isolated house to the rest of the country. Soon strange things are starting to happen and the children are acting strangely too, particularly young Edward who has been struck dumb by witnessing his mother killed in front of him in a bombing raid, and takes some comfort in a creepy Mr. Punch doll he finds, that talks to him, then the children start to die.

This is a serviceable enough book of a film, with Waites demonstrating a solid, if not stolid, writing style that puts forward events in an unshowy, straightforward fashion, albeit populated by paper thin characters that struggle to raise the slightest bit of interest or concern in the reader, and by being based on a film there are a heckofalot of chapters and sections that are very short – da da da dum, clearly mimicking the on-screen chills, or jolts Waites is trying to put into words, but apart from the lack of chills and thrills, and genuine creepiness that Hill was able to conjure up in her original, here, there is no real tension or back-story as such, as we know all about the Woman in Black and her terrible tragic story because of the book/play/film (even, possibly by watching a half-forgotten TV adaptation). Now, she carries no real menace except to dispatch the young ’uns and is turned into a white-faced/black-dressed version of Jason or Michael Myers and I can all too easily – oh, the horror – envisage yet another sequel. maybe set in the 1960s with Eel Marsh House being turned into a hippie commune, man.

After the book ends there is little essay by Waites about his love of horror movies, kicked off by watching Hammer’s Dracula Has Risen From The Grave. To be fair, this is not his finest work, for that read some of the 'Tania Carver' crime novels he co-writes with his wife Linda, or his standalone 'Joe Donovan' novels.

As for TWIBTSAofD, file under “average adaptation of a film script”.

Ian Hunter

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