It may not be very clever, and the plot may be full of holes, but this sequel's clammy atmosphere is so unnerving that it manages to keep us squirming in our seats. Credit has to go to director Tom Harper for making this work, because Jon Croker's script is strung together on the thinnest logic imaginable. Instead, it's the inner lives of the characters combined with the almost ridiculously freaky setting that work to keep the audience in a state of perpetual freak-out. As long as we don't try to make sense of it.
It's set 40 years after the first film, as bombs are falling in 1941 London and schoolteacher Eve (Phoebe Fox) evacuates eight students north away from the threat. Travelling with headmistress Jean (Helen McCrory), they meet charming airman Harry (Jeremy Irvine) on the train. He's headed to a new post near Eel Marsh House, where the children will be living. At the train station, they meet Dr. Rhodes (Adrian Rawlins), who escorts them to the insanely isolated, falling-down wreck of a clearly haunted mansion, cut off from the mainland at high tide. But Eve and Jean get on with making it feel like home, while Harry looks in on them from time to time. Then one of the boys, Edward (Oaklee Pendergast), who hasn't spoken a word since a bomb killed his family, sees a malicious ghost (Leanne Best).
From here things get startlingly nasty. This is definitely not a thriller for pre-teens, like the first film. These children are in genuine peril, and begin to die in pretty ghastly ways, like a slasher movie with victims who are only 10 years old. Much of the worst violence remains off-screen, so Jean amusingly refuses to admit that there's any real problem until things really cut loose. Clever acting touches add to the drama, as Irvine and Fox provide a whiff of doomed romance, McCrory maintains her stiff upper lip just a bit longer than she should, and the kids get to create seriously creepy moments of their own.
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