Thursday, October 31, 2013

Movie Review: The Awakening (2011)

The Awakening (2011) directed by Nick Murphy

The time is 1921 and Florence Cathcart is a Cambridge-educated woman who spends her time debunking the spiritualism of the day--seances, ghost sightings, etc. She believes in science and facts and nothing else. She's even written a popular book about the subject. Her celebrity in demystifying what seems supernatural inspires a headmaster from Cumbria to recruit her. His boys' school is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a child murdered in the house before it became a school. The specter of a dead child has been terrifying the boys. One boy has died under the sort of mysterious circumstances that has frightened everybody. The school is about to have a holiday and the staff are worried the children won't come back.

Florence reluctantly agrees to go to the school. She sets up her scientific equipment to find out what's going on. She soon uncovers the entirely mundane explanation for the child's death but some other unexplained things happen and she can't leave just yet. So she stays during the break to investigate further. A few school people remain with her.

The movie delivers the typical chills for this kind of haunted house movie--creaky doors, glimpses of the specter just barely in frame, silent and slow exploration of the house in the dark, spooky toys, etc., much like The Woman in Black and The Others. I love this kind of horror. Even though I've seen most all the tricks before they still work on a visceral level.

The overall story is interesting enough to keep me guessing at the solution or trying to anticipate twists, which I was not able to do. The performances also kept me engaged. Florence's smug know-it-all character is soon led away from her biases and becomes more vulnerable and relate-able. The ending is a little bit playful, like Inception's ending, but it didn't make me groan like Inception did.

All in all, this movie is a solid B haunted house thriller that I would recommend.

See the trailer here. Sadly, all the YouTube trailers start with commercials, which I do not want to subject my poor readers to. Some horrors are too horrible! Happy Halloween to all!

Parental advisory--in addition to the overall tension and menace of a horror film, there's also a discreet sex scene, some nudity from both sexes, some human-on-human violence with bloody wounds. Also, there's some boarding school discipline (a cane to the hand and to the backside).

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