Complete with spooks, chills, and thrills, Nick Murphy’s ‘The Awakening’, starring Rebecca Hall is a carefully crafted ghost story, which is guaranteed to make you jump.
Post-war and post-influenza epidemic, 1921, we are told ‘is a time for ghosts’. With the overwhelming amounts of untimely deaths and the huge sense of loss and grief surrounding this period, it is without a doubt a perfectly chilling setting for a ghost story. Many people believed that they were haunted by their past, and others actively searched for ghosts in hope, seeking to see their loved ones. This is where The Awakening begins. Amongst all these ghost hunters, is a prime ghostbuster, Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall), an educated woman who uses her knowledge of science to dispel any notions of ghosts, finding explanations and proof to account for the supposed supernatural experiences.
Florence is a feisty, knowledgeable woman, who is a victim of her sex, as her cynical notions and dominant prowess always seems to strike a nerve with powerful men. Up against the odds due to her sex, pretty soon Cathcart comes across a supernatural case, which cannot be explained. Called to a boy’s boarding school where a child reportedly died of fright, Florence attempts to discover the truth about the strange events. Surrounded by equally eerie looking characters from the war veteran Robert Mallory (Dominic West), to the unreadable maid Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton), alongside a further array of staunchly suspicious caretakers and schoolteachers, and not forgetting the chilling performances from the children, especially Isaac Hampstead Wright who plays the lonely schoolboy Tom, this thriller is full of suspects.
Made by BBC Films, the setting is stunningly recreated like a sumptuous BBC period drama. Coincidently, the 100-year-old vintage Phoenix Cinema also appeared apt for this spooky thriller, with its classic surroundings and archetypal lighting, The Awakening seemed naturally at home with every spine-tingling moment oozing through the auditorium. The film’s setting works as brilliantly uncanny, as on the one hand it is a recognizable period which feels familiar, yet it is also quite distant, and this increasingly adds to the unnerving atmosphere.
Rebecca Hall’s performance is commendable; she performs with an admirable mix of grace and authority and is so much more than a stereotypical helpless female victim. However, in terms of script, admittedly in places it is quite shaky and occasionally hard to follow, yet that does work to its advantage, as overall the outcome is very unpredictable. Director Nick Murphy has clearly taken inspiration from films such as The Others, but that’s not a bad thing as there is still plenty to get you spooked from that formula. It is a film that will catch you unexpectedly and make you jump, but it will also have you on the edge of your seat trying to solve the mystery too. It is a ghost story with a chase, and a surprisingly edgy one at that; it is riveting, eerily chilling and will have you completely absorbed.
This review is featured on http://www.thewhatwherewhen.org/