The Awakening (2011)
In post-World War One Britain a grief-stricken woman seeks to disprove ghosts ( in an effort to convince herself that her fallen lover really is gone forever…..). The latest investigation takes her to a boarding school, seemingly haunted by the spirit of a murdered boy. Once there she begins to question her underlying scientific beliefs.
A film which harks back to the vintage period in British horror and could have come straight from a 1960s hammer studio. Director Nick Murphy shoots a bleak England licking its wounds of war and disease with considerable ability but seems unable to capitalise on his promising first hour.
Nevertheless, there are some intricate shock set-pieces and genuine chills – including a fantastically well-done opening gambit involving an emotional séance led by charlatans. Furthermore there is a scene, which I think is sure to become iconic, in which our intrepid investigator chases the ghost through the house only to encounter a model of the building itself, complete with hand-made figures inside – including those of herself and the ghost standing right behind her. The ghost figure itself is terrifying and reminiscent, strangely, of the victims in the Japanese horror classic “Ringu” (1998).
The cast is strong with Dominic West giving an exhilarating performance of a self-hating war veteran. TV regular Shaun Dooley also deserves acclaim for his minor role as a teacher on the verge of both mental and physical breakdown as a consequence of his experience in the trenches. However, Imelda Staunton’s housekeeper/matron character is a bit too much to handle and very hammy in parts.
The movie has a completely unnecessary sequence with a child’s ball rolling down a staircase, in an almost exact replica of a scene from Peter Medak’s haunting picture “The Changeling” (1981). There are also heavy comparisons with “The Innocents” (1961) and “The Others” (2001).
When all is revealed close to the end, it’s all a bit sickeningly sentimental, dispelling the elements of fear and tension, which both cast and crew have worked so hard to generate.
Unfortunately, a picture which promises so much but ultimately fails to deliver. The viewer is left a bit disappointed – what initially looks like a great return-to-form for British horror is revealed to be only a mediocre yet competent re-hash of the movies that haunt our past.
hotdog rating: 6/10