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Between 1914 and 1919, one million people lost their lives to
influenza. Society was more ignorant back then. Science and rational
thinking were not then the forces they are today. People were open to
anything, including the possibility of ghosts.
Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) stands out in the London of the twenties for being a free-thinker and a debunker of the supernatural. A boarding school teacher (Dominic West) implores her to visit his school following the death of a pupil, where unexplained sightings are being reported.
Florence isn't a total sceptic. She leaves some room for belief, which caused me to note she is agnostic towards ghosts. Essentially, there are two stories. One is concerning the death of the pupil. The other is more interesting and distinguishes it from a deluge of other horror films which have vanished from my mind as quickly as the ghostly apparitions in them. It focuses on Florence herself, and I shall say no more as I will not spoil it for you.
This is not a scary film; there are several portents but few frights. What there is plenty of, however, is suspense. Nick Murphy, in his feature-length debut, also manages to sustain a melancholy mood, crucial for his story.
It's no surprise that Rebecca is the daughter of Peter Hall, founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company. She commands the screen in a way which would cause many of her peers to blush with envy. Her character is a difficult one to personify.
Dominic West, he with the simian countenance from the groundbreaking crime series 'The Wire', is very good as the guilt-ridden soldier-turned-teacher. Imelda Staunton is effective as the school matron. She has that look in her eye which is trying to tell us something.
I'm calling this a grown-up film because the spiritual element becomes auxiliary. Guilt and loneliness take over as leading themes. Murphy has the acuity to drop the ghost story because otherwise it would be a simulacrum of other period chillers and focuses on a story of locked emotion. The denouement is clever and original. The penultimate revelation would have been a superb ending on its own, so having a double-twist is all the more impressive.
I can't believe I almost didn't see this movie based on the lower
rating and negative reviews. What a shame that would have been! There
are always plenty of long reviews, so I won't bore you with mine.
This movie was absolutely wonderful. It has some drama, suspenseful music and scenes from start to finish, and even a bit of romance (but not nearly enough to make this a romantic or "chick" movie).
Each of the chosen actors were perfect for their part and they portrayed assigned characters beautifully. They were very likable and believable.
I'm not going to compare this movie with any other, but if you're like me and love movies such as The Sixth Sense, Shutter Island, Inception, Dream House, etc... I promise you will love this movie as well. You also, like me, may decide to immediately watch it the 2nd time to see if there are any clues you missed preparing you for the last 15 minutes of movie.
Out of over 700 movies in my collection, only 32 have a 10 star rating. This movie comes VERY close to that category. Definitely a must see!
Just saw this at an advance preview and it is fantastic. If you like
your a fan of Spanish horror like The Orphanage of Hierro then you will
Delibrately hiding key facts throughout the film to keep you guessing so ignore the reviews here trying to compare this to Paranormal Activity 3. This is a film where you have to use your brain, you have to concentrate and let the film take you on a journey and if you do then you will be justly rewarded with a scary ghost story.
It builds and builds to an excellent ending , you just need a little bit of patience and a little bit of brain power to get you there.
I love old-fashioned ghost stories, both in literature and in moving picture. It's a harder genre than people give credit to, especially because it's age. Since it has been done to death, almost every possibility and approach seems to have been covered. However, there are movies that have taken the this tired formula and made splendid films - The Orphanage is a good example of a ghost story done right. The Awakening started off right. The acting was good, the mood was efficiently set and the cinematography gorgeous to look at. I was many times at absolute awe at the beautiful images and camera shots that the movie boosted. However, the central thing in a movie is it's plot, and that's where things get shaky. The plot wasn't that great to begin with and as it progressed became less interesting, managing nonetheless to sustain my interest throughout until the end, which was by far the film's greatest weakness. The ending "twist" came too late and was done with too much haste, which hurt it's already shaky believability. I think the ending despite being far-fetched could still work if done more competently and with more preparation. It's still an enjoyable movie, but the beautiful and eerie imagery would be much better served by a better plot. All in all, a solid 5 for the film, 10 for the cinematography. This cinematographer deserves to be well known, assuming he isn't already.
Ghost debunking author, spiritual hoax nemesis and early benefactor of
the suffragette movement, Florence, is invited to a boys boarding
school where the children are terrorised by a phantom child and the
teachers by the aftermath of WW1. She is to debunk the ghost story and
return the school to business as usual.
A rational explanation quickly reveals itself, through the simple application of Holmesian deduction, a chemistry, set and some bells on strings. However, haunted by her personal sense of guilt and loss, Florence finds the rational solution unsatisfactory and searches instead for an antidote to her own suffering.
Haunting cinematography, a strong cast and a story line which supports both suspense and character depth, enable this film to stand alongside "the orphanage" and "the Others" rather than being shadowed by them.
Winner of the Jury Prize at the Gerardmer Film Festival in France.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are noticeable borrowings in terms of themes and atmosphere from
the 1961 classic THE INNOCENTS and more recent creepy hits such as as
THE SIXTH SENSE and THE OTHERS in this tale of Florence (Rebecca Hall),
a nervous investigator of the paranormal who sets out to disprove the
existence of a ghostly schoolboy at a remote boarding school in 1921.
Imelda Staunton plays the school matron in a style somewhere between
Hattie Jacques and Mrs Danvers; Dominic West is a war-traumatised
teacher who you somehow know will end up in a bonk scene with our
There's an endearingly precocious schoolboy called Thomas (Isaac Hempstead Wright) who hasn't gone home for the holidays; Thomas provides a solid counterpoint to the ghost-boy whom we as well as Florence get glimpses of. There's a haunted dolls-house that belongs in the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari. The pace is well-timed. The cinematography is outstanding.
The "exposition" at the end of the movie just about makes sense, but the film teeters on the brink of becoming one of those dire Psycho-shockers from Joan Crawford's twilight years, although Rebecca Hall is (thankfully) a much better actress. THE AWKENING has a satisfying number of make-you-jump moments - like a fun-fair ghost train, scary when you're on it but a bit daft when you think about it afterwards.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think a lot of people go to view this movie as a scary, jumpy horror
movie and fall into that trap. This movie is different, it's not
focused on the horror or the scare, it's focused on the story of
Florence Cathcart (played by the fantastic Rebecca Hall) and her drive
to prove that spirits are not real and are just 'naughty little
troublemakers'. However, she is not really trying to prove spirits
aren't real, she's actually looking for a sign that they are real, and
her dead, nearly-fiancée has passed over.
It is a really good movie, with a great story, great acting and a great big twist at the end. For some people this movie drags on too much and a lot of it doesn't matter in the end. For me, I loved every second of the story, and the ending was just superb. The twist, when it is revealed, really will make you go 'wait, what?' and I think the movie is worth watching just for the twist.
As I said in the summary, do not go to see this if you're wanting a scary horror movie, or a horror movie really, go watch it for the fantastic storyline and superb acting by all involved.
In 1921, in London, the arrogant and skeptical Florence Cathcart
(Rebecca Hall) is a famous for exposing hoax, helping the police to
arrest con artists. The stranger Robert Mallory (Dominic West) tells
her that the headmaster of the boarding school in Rookford had invited
her to travel to Cumbrio to investigate a ghost that is frightening to
death the pupils. He also tells that many years ago there was a murder
in the real estate and recently the pupil Walter Portman had died. The
reluctant Florence finally accepts to go to Cumbrio.
On the arrival, she is welcomed by the governess Maud (Imelda Staunton) and the boy Thomas Hill. Sooner Florence discovers what had happened to Walter and then the students, teachers and staff are released on vacation, and Florence remains alone with Robert, Maud and Tom in the school. Florence is ready to leave the boarding school and strange things happen. Florence comments with Robert and he tells that there is only three persons in the boarding school, leaving Florence scared.
"The Awakening" is a ghost story that begins with the information that between 1914 and 1919, the war and the influenza claimed more than one million lives in Britain. The storyline is very similar to the 1995 "Haunted", with a woman that exposes hoax and swindlers traveling to her home town to investigate a ghost that is haunting the students of a boarding school. Nevertheless the supernatural story is engaging and has many plot points with new revelations. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "O Despertar" ("The Awakening")
The Awakening is the best old-fashioned ghost story made in modern time
since The Others. The film to me was so emotionally powerful, with an
engrossing tale of loss, loneliness, grief and fear. Don't go in with
expectations of being scared out of your mind even though there is some
well executed scares in this film. It's not the type of horror film
that really focuses on that element because it doesn't need to rely on
it so heavily like most horror movies do these days. The film's
strengths are its atmosphere, effective suspense, impeccable
performances, a story worth telling and a twist that through me for a
loop. The most under appreciated horror film of 2012.
Rebecca Hall plays Florence Cathcart, a Hoax exposer who is called to a boarding house to investigate strange paranormal activity. Rebecca is one of the most under used actresses of today! She was so mesmerizing in this role and it's a shame that this didn't get a wide theatrical release so people can see what a great actress she is; this was Oscar worthy to me. The rest of the cast was great too, that include Dominic West who plays Robert Mallory and Imelda Staunton who gives a heartbreaking performance as the caretaker Maud Hill. These characters were so moving and heartfelt and give the story an emotional punch.
Director and writer, Nick Murphy shows true talent in his first full length feature film, and has strength as a writer. His ability to capture emotion along with shocks and spooks is breathtaking to me; his film grabs and doesn't let go. He is a director to look out for. Stephen Volk who is no stranger to the horror genre, he also wrote screenplays for Gothic, The Kiss, The Guardian, Superstition and Octane. He shows true growth here as a solid writer for this genre. They should collaborate again! Overall, The Awakening treads a lot on familiar grounds, but there is true talent in front and behind the camera that you can really appreciate the presentation. It could of used a couple more scares but the ones thrown at us were effectively spooky. The acting, characters, suspense and surprising twist though, truly drive this film. Recommended! 7.9 out of 10
I found "The Awakening" to be a breath of fresh air for the
Horror/Suspense genre. With so many shaky cam, found footage, reality
show type horror/suspense movies hitting the box offices and living
rooms around the world with poor character development, over the top
torture and gore, plots so thin they are the only transparent ghosts in
the picture. "The Awakening" is bound to be an instant classic! It's
done with just the right amount of restraint, it has a rather
Hitchcockian tone to it.What you don't see is far more suspenseful and
adds to it.Sometimes less really is more. There is a fine line to walk
especially with a ghost story, to achieve that sense of spine tingling,
skin crawling feeling and that element can only be teased from the
psyche with mystery, not in your face guts or a head being lopped off -
that is shock value and gross out, which is perfectly fine for a
slasher pic or a grind house movie, but not a good ghost story.
"The Awakening" is set in 1921 England, our Protagonist Florence Cathcart a free thinking, strong willed ghost buster, author and hoax crusher opens this gem of a movie by diving right into the fray. Mediums, psychics and séances' were all the rage during that time period, which began with the religion of spiritualism. Spiritualism developed and reached its peak growth in the 1840's to the 1920's. With many patrons from the Aristocratic and famous class, like Abraham Lincoln joining his wife for a séance after the death of their young son. After WWI many bereaved souls were searching for a connection to loved ones lost either from deadly illness or the horrors of war and were further victimized by unscrupulous charlatans seeking only coin and selling false hope. Florence's main objective is to put a stop to this and shed light and truth on the subject of death, the afterlife and ghosts. But after being invited to a supposedly haunted old grand estate that was converted into a boy's boarding school, with a recent death of a student and a rumor of an old murder and sightings of a ghost, Florence finds much more than school boy pranks and hoaxes - she finds something good, something frightening and something truly enlightening.
The character development in "The Awakening" is done perfectly with solid performances from the entire cast. The cinematography is excellent as is the entire production tip to tail. From sets and wardrobe to the musical score. The research done for the story and time period is what really brings this ghost story to life. It's the small details and creepy little surprises that all add to the reality of the time this story is told and the ensuing mystery. I must also comment on the pacing - this movie wasted no time, it's no action packed, a scare a minute kind of movie, it's far more subtle, but it's never slow or boring and nothing is wasted.
As a true horror/suspense connoisseur (I have a degree in film production and I was a make-up artist/Stylist for print, film and T.V. for 12 years.) I'd like to comment on some of the cynical and negative reviews. One cannot simply lump all horror and suspense films together. There are many subsets of the genre (Slasher, Grind House, Mystery, Supernatural, Creature, Occult, Gothic..etc.)and each has it's own flavor so to speak. You cannot compare a movie like "A nightmare on Elm street" to "The Changeling". Though they are both considered to be horror, one is supernatural slasher and the other is classic ghost story. Even when comparing movies in the same subset like "The house on haunted hill" with "The Haunting" both of which have remakes, have huge differences, usually found in the details and presentation and should be considered unique in their own right. While it may be true that there is nothing new under the sun and we've all seen the same plots and themes over and over again - I have found there is always something new to add to the age old themes.
This movie is in my top 10 of great ghost stories - 8 out of 10 stars for "The Awakening".
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