Thought you were over things that go bump in the night? Think again. Director Nick Murphy’s film, The Awakening, had me clutching my poor, unsuspecting friend’s shoulder and involuntarily (but loudly) exclaiming obscenities in the movie theatre. Set in 1921 England after the loss and grief of WWI, the film follows ghost hunter and skeptic Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) as she takes on her most difficult case yet.
Author of the popular book “Seeing Through Ghosts,” Florence is best known for her intelligence and wit as she exposes fake-ghosts and supernatural con artists. After being approached by a stuttering stranger, Robert Mallory (Dominic West), Florence is eventually convinced to take on the case of an alleged child ghost at a boy’s boarding school, who supposedly frightened one of the students literally to death. After a spooky night in the gothic school with some cool Victorian ghost-hunter gadgets, Florence is able to reach a conclusion and comfortably send all of the boys off for vacation. Turns out this is all much too easy, and Florence couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s only after the boys leave for their families that things really begin to get curious and creepy.
As Florence continues to be haunted by the ghost child, we are confronted with many scenes of suspense-driven chills and thrills. With the exception of having to put together a few pieces for the big end-reveal, understanding why Florence hunts for ghosts, and a seemingly superfluous romance, the majority of the film centers on these suspenseful moments. The setting is appropriately grim, dark, and solemn--the perfect ambiance for a successful scare. And the film does succeed with this; it serves its purpose as a horror/thriller flick. Although there were a few scenes where I had seen enough scary movies to know I should start reaching for my friend’s shirt, I still ended up jumping out of my seat more than I’d like to admit. As with many scary thriller flicks, the music drives these scenes, along with limited viewer vision and calculated camera angles. While the “big end-reveal” adds an interesting layer, the film concludes with a hurried and somewhat unsatisfying twist. If you’re in the mood for some serious spooks with solid acting, The Awakening is worth checking out; but I wouldn’t go out of my way if you’re looking for anything more than that.
The Awakening opens in theaters Friday, August 17th. Check out the trailer, below.