Film Review: ‘The Awakening’ with Rebecca Hall Will Put You to Sleep

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CHICAGO – There a lot of sighs and longing looks in the new horror film “The Awakening” (and good luck trying to distinguish between the generically-titled “The Apparition,” “The Possession,” and this one — all in theaters). This disappointing attempt at an atmospheric ghost story tries to tell a tale that first feels like a haunting from within. Survivor’s guilt and depression lead people to such depths of sadness that it is like they are ghosts themselves and perhaps more susceptible to visitors from beyond the grave. Or is that what this story is about? This potentially strong foundation for a ghost story dissipates as “The Awakening” gets less interesting as it becomes more supernaturally dramatic and builds to a generic twist ending. Oscarman rating: 2.5/5.0
Rating: 2.5/5.0

“The Awakening” is one of those ghost stories in which characters say things like “I don’t think there’s a place on Earth where people understand loneliness better than here.” Everything is so steeped in depression, guilt, loneliness, and misery that it seems impossible for the light to get in and horror films never work if there’s no light to balance the dark. “The Awakening” becomes monotonous to the point that it is more likely to put you to sleep than put the fear of the other world into your soul.

StarRead Brian Tallerico’s full review of “The Awakening” in our reviews section.

Rebecca Hall does nothing wrong (the underrated actress rarely does) but can’t bring to life the character of Florence Cathcart, a writer who has worked hard to expose the real-life hoaxes behind most reports of supernatural activity. In 1921 England, the country is still recovering from the pain and death of World War I, making it ripe for both real ghosts and those looking to take advantage of emotional turmoil. Cathcart clearly houses personal secrets but she tries to leave them at the door of a creepy boarding school when Robert Malory (Dominic West of “The Wire”) asks for help investigating the death of a child there and the consistent reports of a ghostly urchin. Of course, what’s happening at the school and the ghosts of Cathcart’s past will soon merge into one story.

Like all ghost stories, “The Awakening” starts slowly. The first act of the piece has a strong sense of atmosphere as Florence meets the teachers (including a housekeeper played by the great Imelda Staunton) and begins her investigation. It’s a creepy old house masquerading as a boarding school and director Nick Murphy has a strong sense of setting for about half an hour. I was with the film as Florence investigated shadowy reflections, ringing bells, and secret cabinets.

StarContinue reading for Brian Tallerico’s full “The Awakening” review.

“The Awakening” stars Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, and Imelda Staunton. It was written by Stephen Volk & Nick Murphy and directed by Murphy. It opens in Chicago on August 31, 2012.

The Awakening
The Awakening
Photo credit: Cohen Media Group

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