Reel Reviews
Movie: “The Awakening:” A Ghost Story with a Twist
April 22, 2013
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Fascination with ghosts and all kinds of supernatural things that go bump in the night has been around since the dawn of humanity. There are people who truly believe in ghosts, there are skeptics and then there are those who believe in nothing at all; you probably have one of each of these types in your group of friends or family. Ghost stories told around campfires are a tradition and some of the best ones tend to be the simplest; “The Awakening” could have been one of those stories had it tried a bit less to be enigmatic.

Set in the early 1920’s the film follows a young author and ghost hunter named Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall, “The Prestige”), who does not believe in anything other than what can be proven with evidence and thus she does her job to discredit scam artists wanting to make a buck on people’s grief. One afternoon she is visited by Robert Mallory (Dominic West, HBO’s “The Wire”), who works at a boarding school where a young boy recently died after saying that he had seen a ghost, in hopes that she will accompany him back to the school and figure out what is scaring the children.

Once she arrives at the ominous looking boarding school, she meets a fan of her book and the children’s keeper Maud (Imelda Staunton, “Harry Potter Series”) and bonds with young student Tom (Isaac Hempstead Wright, HBO’s “Game of Thrones”), but it does not take long for Florence’s beliefs to begin to crumble when unexplainable things start to happen. What is the real story behind the boarding school and what does it have to do with Florence?   

Old fashioned in look and feel, with muted color and very little musical accompaniment, “The Awakening” is far from the horror film it claims to be; truly, nothing about it is scary from a modern horror genre perspective as it lacks cheap thrills and gore. The actors are all extremely competent with their roles and the strangely formed relationship between Hall’s and Wright’s characters is interesting to see as both characters are consumed with loneliness; they make a very sad pair. The location could not be better as the perpetual fog in England only adds to the unsettling atmosphere and isolation of the boarding school while ramping up the creep factor of the already depressing mansion.    

The film runs at an almost unbearably slow pace and the script is neither deep nor attention grabbing. Although logical, the reveal at the end, which is just kind of cobbled together, does not make up for sitting through almost two hours of slow pacing, boring dialogue and characters you do not feel anything for one way or another.  

“The Awakening” is rated R for some violence and sexuality/nudity and runs 107 minutes. It is currently available on Netflix Instant.