Hammer’s horror hit ‘Woman In Black’ gets next installment as company begins expanding

One of the great traditions of Hammer Studios is that when you have a hit, you make a follow-up.  As a result, I’m not shocked to hear that they announced today that Hammer is going to begin development on “The Woman In Black: Angels Of Death,” the next installment in the story begun in their hit spring movie, “The Woman In Black.”

Daniel Radcliffe’s first major post-“Harry Potter” performance may have had something to do with the film’s international success, but before there was a film, there was a book, and then there was a stage show, both of which were also very successful.  There was meat on the bones to begin with, and this wasn’t just some cheap cash-in horror film.  Hammer’s approach to film series has never been to just make the typical sequels, either, so it makes sense that they’d push the definition with this series as well.

For horror fans, the return of Hammer to the world of international production is a welcome event, and even if they did release the risible “The Resident,” they also were part of the very well-made “Let Me In” and “Wake Wood,” which both signaled that there were people involved in this new version of the veteran British company that were determined to try harder, who respected the legacy that their company represents.

Susan Hill, the novelist who wrote the original piece, developed the story that is now being turned into a screenplay by Jon Croker, and while it is definitely connected to the original, it’s not a conventional sequel in the sense that it’s about the same exact characters.  The first film was set in the early 1900s, about a lawyer who travels to the remote Eel Marsh House to make sense of the estate of his deceased client.  That’s when he comes into contact with the Woman In Black.  The new film will jump forward four decades and start with a couple who comes into contact with Eel Marsh House, setting off a new haunting.

The first film was directed by James Watkins and adapted for the screen by Jane Goldman, who is one of the busiest screenwriters in the business now and for good reason.  This is important for Hammer to prove that they can follow up a hit with something that appeals to the same audience, and so it sounds like they’re taking this very serious.  CBS Films, who released the film in the US, have first option at releasing the sequel, and considering how well things went the first time around, I’m guessing it’s important to Hammer to keep that relationship in place.

I’m just excited to see this new incarnation of Hammer start to really establish themselves as a commercial entity, and I hope that a hit like this gives them room to experiment and figure out their voice moving forward.  Sequels are the foundation from which innovation can grow, but only if they’re willing to take chances.  That’s the only way they’re going to be more than a shadow of one of the greatest horror companies to ever work in film.  It sounds like they’re branching out into publishing with a Random House imprint, and they’re also going to be working in live theater in the UK, a great breeding ground for new material.

“The Woman In Black” arrives on video in US on May 15th.