Cinema Review – The Awakening
TITLE – THE AWAKENING YEAR – 2011 DIRECTOR – NICK MURPHY CAST – REBECCA HALL, DOMINIC WEST, IMELDA STAUNTON WRITERS – NICK MURPHY, STEPHEN VOLK
Ghost stories that rely on subtle scares and unsettling atmospheres are usually far more effective than films which rely on gore and elaborate death scenes to frighten the viewer, and it was with this in mind that I had been anticipating Nick Murphy’s feature length debut, The Awakening, a traditional ghost story that takes place in 1920s England.
Rebecca Hall plays Florence Cathart, a scientist who specialises in uncovering fraud mediums who prey on people that are desperate to reconnect with their deceased loved ones using spiritual methods. After an enthralling séance scene sets the mood, Florence is called upon to investigate the disappearance of a young boy who vanished under mysterious circumstances at an isolated boarding school. On her arrival she is introduced to a number of suspicious characters who inevitably turn out to have troubled pasts that hide dark secrets, and Florence eventually begins to wonder if ghosts really do exist.
The Awakening is a fairly impressive début, Murphy clearly has a lot of ambition but the film’s conclusion does not deliver on the intriguing premise, which gets lost in a myriad of plot twists that unfortunately detract from the overall experience. There are a number of unexpected scares that provoked a reaction from the audience but are unlikely to cause any sleepless nights, just spilled popcorn and embarrassment.
Imelda Staunton’s understated performance as the eerie matron and Dominic West’s portrayal of the disturbed housemaster deserved to be in a better film, and Hall’s captivating performance really helped to ratchet up the tension in the investigative scenes, despite the fact that fans of the genre will have seen it all before.
As I was watching The Awakening I couldn’t help but think of similar ghost films; certain scenes appeared to have been lifted from a number of classics such as The Changeling and The Devil’s Backbone, in fact the whole story could be perceived as a crude amalgamation of the films which have come before it, and this could explain why the story didn‘t fit together as a whole. Despite this, there were a few original moments, a spooky scene involving a doll’s house being a highlight, but these were few and far between and not quite enough to convince me that I was watching an intelligent horror film.
Although The Awakening is ambitious in its depth, it ultimately struggles to provide a satisfying conclusion which is disappointing as the initial set up of a sceptical paranormal investigator who spends her time uncovering frauds is a great idea that should have been explored more. It’s certainly a brave first attempt from Nick Murphy but the convoluted plot twists and reliance on genre clichés only serve to detract from the film’s intriguing first half. Horror fans will have seen this style of story told before in far superior films but those looking for lighter scares may be more forgiving, thanks in most part to Rebecca Hall’s impressive performance that just about manages to carry the film when the plot fails to deliver.
[starreview tpl=16 size='30']
THE AWAKENING IS RELEASED NATIONALLY IN THE UK ON 11TH NOVEMBER 2011Tom Bielby is a long time film fan and aspiring film writer. HE writes his own blog named The Film Bantha
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