Movie Reviews

'The Awakening': Don’t be afraid of the dark

By Travis WongMovies - 11 April 2012 4:09 PM | Updated 5:48 PM

'The Awakening': Don’t be afraid of the dark

Rebecca Hall (above) and Dominic West chase ghostly shadows in this creepy haunted house movie.

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The Buzz: The first lead role for actress Rebecca Hall, who has been in such films as Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Town.

The Stars: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton

The Story: Florence Cathcart is a brainy young widow on a mission to disprove the claims of the spiritualists and mediums that were so potent in the wake of the First World War and the 1918 flu pandemic. She is asked by a boarding school master (Dominic West) to investigate a reported haunting at his school, and ends up having her rock-solid beliefs dramatically shaken by what she finds. thinks: A haunted house ghost story that is effective when director Nick Murphy focuses on the creepy aspects, this British ghost story tries too hard for a twist that M. Night Shyamalan would have smiled at.

'The Awakening' conjures up some really good lo-tech scares in this age of CGI.

The film does boast great performances, particularly from BAFTA winner Rebecca Hall. The actress is outstanding in the lead role of a determined spiritualist with her own ghost hunting equipment of the era, which is one of the most unique and interesting segments of the film.

The supporting characters are mostly standard fare of British horror films, including a depraved groundskeeper and a sceptical schoolmaster. Murphy is able to generate plenty of atmosphere initially, but starts to lose control as the movie wears on and relies on jump shocks to keep the film from flagging. Florence becomes less of a participant and more of an observer by the end of the film, as the secrets of the school reveal themselves.

It all comes across like a haunted ‘Downton Abbey’, and stands above other horror flicks for its restraint and its humour. It is a slightly better film than the Daniel Radcliffe starred ‘The Woman in Black’, though the ghost here is far less menacing.