Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Review: 'The Awakening' (2011)


There's not really much to say about this film that you can't work out for yourself - it's a standard Haunted House Horror set in the 1920s, which sees a sceptic ghost-buster visit a "haunted" boarding school to debunk the supernatural goings-on, only to question her own beliefs. It deals with faith and post-war fears; on the latter note, it's very compelling - various characters have different opinions on the WWI conflict and suffered different traumas. And on the belief side - remember the film is called The Awakening - again, multiple viewpoints are given; there's no cliche "fear God!" characters or blind faith going on.

On the subjects of cliches.....it's full of them. The hand from the river grasping at our heroine's arm, the scary laughing child running about the house, the "there's something moving behind you!" moment. But there are only so many ways of scaring an audience so these moments are forgivable (besides, if you're still a fan of the horror genre you know all the tricks and presumably you don't care). It's worth mentioning a particularly creepy set-piece involving a doll's house that will tingle your spine. But other than that, the scary ain't that scary.

The characters are compelling - performances from Dominic West and Imelda Staunton are predictably note-perfect, but it's Rebecca Hall who shines through. In such a strong cast, it would be easy to see her blind-sided, but Hall is more than compelling as a strong female lead questioning her beliefs.

A lot of horor movies tend to spend so much time on fancy camera tricks and jumpy movements that the actual visual feel suffers. This isn't one of those cases - the entire movie is beautifully shot by Eduard Grau (he's the guy who used every trick in his arsenal to shoot 2010's Buried with Ryan Reynolds - a film everyone should see!)

A confident script from Stephen Volk and Nick Murphy (managed by director Murphy), easily earns the film 2.5. But the extra star comes from the emotionally compelling character-driven moments and a gut-wrenching final 20 minutes. What stops it getting any further is that it's a little longer than it needs to be, it uses just a few too many predictable horror cliches, and a random subplot with a secondary character acts as nothing more than a red herring. The ending, however, is deliciously ambiguous!


Read more of Neil's movie reviews.

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