Wednesday, January 04, 2012

THE AWAKENING - Good Start, Lame Ending

THE AWAKENING (supernatural thriller)
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Isaac Hempstead-Wright and Shaun Dooley
Director: Nick Murphy
Screenplay: Nicky Murphy and Stephen Volk
Time: 106 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

West and Hall

PREAMBLE: It's a bit like The Others and The Orphanage but what I enjoy most about The Awakening is its detailed circa-1920 Britain atmosphere, its eerie setting and an engaging performance by Rebecca Hall. The letdown is its disappointing ending.

Then again, I was bowled over by Rebecca Hall in The Town and I was glad to see more of her here...

After World War One, Londoners are grieving over the deaths of their loved ones and fraudsters cash in on this to make a fast buck. Author and investigator Florence Cathcart (Hall, above) has developed a reputation for exposing such fake psychics and spiritualists. When school teacher Robert Mallory (Dominic West) asks her to investigate ghost sightings at a Rockwood boys' boarding school in the country, Florence is naturally sceptical. However, she's intrigued by the stories she heard and, armed with chemical powders, trip wires and electromagnetics, she is determined to uncover what's really going on.

HITS & MISSES: Instead of piling up on the scares, director Nick Murphy presents them like clues in a puzzle. Horror thriller fans may find scenes derivative of movies like Sixth Sense and The Others but Murphy manages to capitalise on the cold and dank atmosphere and build up the frights.

It is a treat to see Hall fleshing out Florence as a well-rounded character who is not above spying on a naked Mallory, or getting her convictions overturned. The one flaw with Florence may be that she appears too modern (even wearing pants at one point) to be from the 1920s. Imelda Staunton provides a nicely understated performance as the school's matron while Joseph Mawle plays a creepy handyman with a grudge against Mallory. West's Mallory has a romance with Florence but it is not that convincing. The ending, of course, leaves us with more questions than answers.

THE LOWDOWN: Flawed by the ending, but still watchable.


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