It’s 40 years after the events of 2012’s icy, throat-grabbing original film of Susan Hill’s novella, and London is being bombed to bits by the blasted Germans. To add insult to injury, there’s no sign of Daniel Radcliffe. For this disposable, low-rent sequel (based on ‘an idea’ by Hill herself), our favourite junior wizard is replaced by Helen McCrory as Jean Hogg, an emotionally unstable teacher tasked with transporting a handful of young evacuees to the safety of the countryside. Only – guess what? – the creepy old house they’re supposed to be staying in isn’t as safe as they’d hoped.
There’s a comforting TV-at-Christmas ghost story feel to the opening scenes, as McCrory and her wide-eyed charges take stock of their perilous situation. But it quickly devolves into predictable shock tactics, drippy wartime romance and scenes in which the characters leaf tremulously through Victorian photo albums and spout exposition. The result is diverting enough while it lasts, but, like the title character, it’s destined to disappear without trace in the cold light of day.