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(I) (2011)

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a must see for those who like being intrigued
ivanaaaaaaaaa25 March 2012
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!
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An Instant Classic Ghost Story
robin-72-7182192 February 2013
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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A ghost story for grown-ups
dharmendrasingh20 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
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.
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Don't see this if you're wanting a scary horror movie.
katyiana19 November 2011
Warning: 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.
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An elegant, solid but expected ghost story
rivertam2615 August 2012
The Awakening is pretty much what you would expect it to be. It's well made with gorgeous cinematography and strong performances from its cast. And the story if unsurprising is solidly made and well told. The film is directed well and builds a nice amount of suspense throughout. At times its confusing because of the sheer amount of convoluted ideals being thrown around. The story concerns an educated young woman who debunks ghost theories. She is approached by the headmaster of a school to help out with a problem concerning the boys being frightened there. After some convincing she arrives at the location and begins her investigation. Many secrets are discovered and it builds to a somewhat expected finale. For those of you who've seen the brilliant films The Others, The Orphanage and The Devil's Backbone there's not much new here. Still it's competently made and there is a nice slow burn of suspense even culminating in some surprising scares and plot twists. Overall it's a old fashioned classic spook fest with a bit of wit and borrowed imagination from slightly better films. A bonus scene features sexy Dominic West in a solid performance shedding his clothes which is much appreciated but unnecessary like the other "bathtub" scene. And there seems to be niche with that running through the proceedings it's almost as if the people involved with making the film knew they had something that wasn't the most original concept so they threw in unnecessary things to kind of lead you astray it's a little manipulative on their part but keeps you engaged as a viewer and you don't feel too cheated at the films conclusion. Overall it's an elegant, solid but expected ghost story.
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Gorgeous cinematography, muddled plot.
hugomelo6007 May 2012
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.
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Ghosts in every closet.
nick-yeo-main1 February 2012
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.
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Fantastic film to make you squirm whilst you think!!
gavinevans997 November 2011
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 love this.

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.
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The most underrated horror film of 2012
mdnobles1924 January 2013
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
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The ghost of Joan Crawford
davidgee8 November 2011
Warning: 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 heroine.

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.
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A Time for Ghosts
claudio_carvalho25 May 2012
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")
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A true ghost story
NateWatchesCoolMovies24 August 2015
The Awakening is a sly ghost story, and slipped by mostly unnoticed in 2012. The trailer suggests some scary genre thrills, and while there are a few, most of the trauma that befalls the characters is of interpersonal nature, the demons of their past proving to be far more haunting than any supernatural spooks hiding in the closet. It's isn't without its paranormal jump scares though, but they are nicely blended with the story and personal conflicts of the characters, giving them earned purpose. Rebecca Hall fares excellently ras as a paranormal investigator from circa early 30's London, brought out to the foggy moors of northern england to a grandiose, austere boys boarding school, where some mysterious phenomena has been reported. She reluctantly takes the journey, convinced by one of the teachers (Dominic West) a haunted world war one veteran with demons of his own. She arrives and is subjected to a dank, lonely atmosphere that's chilling enough without being haunted. The boys are muted, frightened waifs, the teachers besides West a morose bunch. She starts prying around, and digs up some secrets that she wished she hadn't. The moody marshlands and gaunt, gilded halls of the building provide a wealth of haunted house atmosphere for us to feast on. But it's a slow burn, with no loud, ridiculous red herring scares or ill placed grotesque cheap thrills. Joseph Mawle makes our skin crawl as an unsettling grounds keeper, Imelda Staunton is even more terrifying than in Harry Potter, if that's possible, and Shaun Dooley is wonderful as a broken man and colleague of West's. This film and The Woman In Black came out the same year, and are very similar on paper. The Awakening is the better execution though, and you need look no further to find a spine chiller that's anchored in a relatable, human story that truly surprises you in the end, and not a cheesy, plodding mess like Woman In Black. Perfect choice for anyone who likes a creepy horror with a big payoff that honors it's characters and it's vision.
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Good old-fashioned ghost story
neil-47618 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) is an unusual woman for 1921. She is informed and educated, and is on a self-imposed mission to expose phony spiritualists who prey on those who lost loved ones in the Great War: we understand that she may well be motivated by her own loss. She is approached by teacher Robert Mallory (Dominic West) to attend a boys' boarding school in the north of England, where one boy has recently died after allegedly seeing a ghost: Matron Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton) has read Florence's book and suggests that her sceptical approach may be what is needed.

This film, co-produced by BBC films, is an old-fashioned ghost story in which there may or may not be a ghost. Despite the presence of a couple of "made-you-jump" moments, it is not a horror film. Instead, it is a portrait of a damaged woman in a world which is itself damaged by the recent War, and it carefully portrays the various repressed feelings of that time: they slot into the story well. But the story also progresses under its own steam, and not always in directions which are entirely predictable. I do not want to say much more about the directions followed because some of them surprised me.

The cast are all excellent. Rebecca Hall is both strong and fragile at the same time, and straddles a line between plainness and luminous beauty. Dominic West's character could well have been a cipher with a couple of facets for character clarification: West makes him a rounded, believable character. Imelda Staunton is, as usual, perfect, and the rest of the cast is good, too.

The photography is excellent - this is a good looking film.

This is highly recommended for anyone who likes an unhurried, but good, ghost story, told with quality.
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The Best Heart-Thumping Haunted House Movie In Ages!
markgordonpalmer27 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers

BFI London Film Festival Screening: 26/10/2011

The Awakening is a film that's hard to talk too much about.

There are many plot twists, sudden turns and sheer shocks throughout. There is one twist involving a boy's death, locked outside the school, that seems to end the film in its tracks prematurely–a smart sleight of hand. Rebecca Hall plays Florence Cathcart; a fake spook exposer in a shell-shocked England, post-First World War, the year 1921-a time of sickness; both post-shock of the horrors of the battlefield and post-epidemics. It's not surprising that many are turning to mediums to find their lost loved ones. Florence helpfully exposes all the trickery, but – in an effective and original opening scene – this exposure isn't welcomed even by those who are being tricked.

Some spirits however are undoubtedly real.

Florence receives a visit from the handsome, if haunted (of looks and of house and home), Robert Mallory; a teacher at a private boarding school for boys in the country. Dominic West is perfect as Mallory; a charismatic and withdrawn 'little boy lost' performance. Part-dashing, part-Dashwood. Like those who are reeling across the country from the loss of loved ones, the boys at his school are equally lost and lonely. They are, well - as good as orphans, despite being collected during the holidays by their parents. All except for one poor lad whose parents are unable to collect him as the journey is too far. So, during the school holidays, it's just him in the house, along with the fussing, furrow-browed matron (Imelda Staunton in a fabulous portrayal of malevolence and love – you never really know which)- and Mr Mallory.

The lost and lonely schoolboy is played by Isaac Hempstead Wright, who really is outstanding in conveying quiet uncertainty. You just want to give him a big hug at times. But with so many things going bump in the night around him, he probably wouldn't believe any words of comfort, other than - "run!" Like the grown up roll call around them, all the young cast of schoolboys are excellent – less Harry Potter, more Harry House of Horror.

Writer Stephen Volk (who co-wrote the screenplay with director Nick Murphy) is no stranger to sorting fact from fiction, or rather blurring the lines. Volk was also the writer of the BBC's 'is this actually real?' live Halloween chiller,'Ghostwatch'.

The screenplay and story of 'The Awakening' is blisteringly scary; I mean really, really scary, helped along by the character of a scary old groundsman called Judd, played by a scene-stealingly creepy and sly Joseph Mawle. Throughout the movie, you know that something is up with Judd – he walks around with a shotgun and has a haunted look to his eyes; like it wouldn't matter at all if he actually pulled that trigger. Towards the end of the movie, he looks through a window and gets the shock – or thrill – of his life.

A couple of the 'jumps' made me tingle for a good minute or so - a kind of frightened buzz that didn't fade away for a good while: a sheer orgasm of fear. Director Nick Murphy (bolstered by sublime work from cinematographer Eduard Grau) shoots and saturates the movie in cold, heartless, dead-tinted hues and handles the shock bits very well – often brilliantly. The film is shot in colour, but in bright early morning blues and greys, so the feel of the film is like being in an old black and white photograph from, well – 1921.

Rebecca Hall is astoundingly beautiful and enticing as Florence, even when sifting through the most bizarre spook-detecting gadgets and devices, or running through the houses of fake mediums exposing the lies like a well-to-do Lady Sherlock Holmes. Florence has her own agenda for trying to expose fake mediums and ghost sightings; having lost her parents in a tragic accident - anger understandably burns away inside her when she confronts those who offer false hope. Florence knows there's a missing part to the puzzle she certainly won't (unlike some of those poor souls also searching for the dead out there) find in the fakes. Like all the best actresses, for all the best directors – the leading lady is shot with love; Rebecca Hall's face and body framed against stark backgrounds in full, leering (but never tacky or forced – only natural)close-ups. Sometimes the camera veering so far towards the actress's freckled face and full, bee stung lips that it's almost like we are looming in for the kiss; reminding of how directors such as Polanski framed their pouting, ravishing best stars such as Nastassja Kinski in films such as 'Tess'.

The beauty of The Awakening rests in the fact that, during the end credits, you feel like you have understood something further about the spirit world – I felt quite tearful, not because I was scared. Which I had been. Or because the film was an outstanding ghost story and will be seen as a classic of the genre for many years to come. Which it will be. I'm not sure what aspect of the movie affected me so deeply. The film does have an upsetting yet beautiful plot twist towards the end that plays with ideas of good and bad, real and unreal, life and afterlife – in a way that few ghost stories have managed before; that only the work of such masters of the craft as M.R.James can capture. But I think the way I felt went beyond this – in the same way films such as The Exorcist or The Omen are said to have tapped into real evil, I think The Awakening taps into something a little too real as well. But like ghost investigator Florence Cathcart, I have no idea – yet – what that reality is. Like others in this movie; I don't think I'd be telling anyway.
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The Awakening
WubsTheFadger10 February 2018
Short and Simple Review by WubsTheFadger

The story begins with a bang but grinds to a halt. The middle part of the film is very slow and labored. The ending is great. The realizations and the twists are what make the film very good.

The pacing is very slow but it builds up towards the end. The pacing is the worst part about the film. The runtime is also overlong.

The acting is good. Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, and Isaac Hempstead Wright all do a great job.

Pro: Great beginning and ending, good acting, and seeing Rebecca Hall naked is a plus

Cons: Very slow pacing, the middle part of the film is extremely slow, and an overlong runtime

Overall Rating: 7.0
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Is That a ... G-G-G-Ghost?
Chris_Pandolfi17 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"The Awakening" plays it safe as far as supernatural thrillers go, providing audiences with such reliable hallmarks as a melodramatic plot, an ending with several twists, and plenty in the way suspense and shocks. That it's unoriginal, there can be no question. Nevertheless, there's no denying the skill that went into it. It is, above all, an incredibly good-looking film; the atmosphere is one of perpetual gloom, the sun shrouded by gray clouds, the rooms of the old boarding house faded and decaying, the overall color scheme muted drearily. It mostly takes place in an isolated area of the English countryside, and in a fairly open field of dark gray grass and overgrown trees, a piece of old architecture juts into the sky menacingly. The only noticeable departure is that, in spite of the washed-out colors, much of the scenery is not concealed in shadows. That style is reserved only for a select number of scenes, most of which are featured in the final act.

Taking place in 1921, the story opens in London, where a woman named Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) has made it her life's mission to debunk claims of supernatural phenomena and expose so-called mediums and spiritualists. And before I go any further, no, this movie is not a retread of "Red Lights," which not only examined the debate between faith and reason in a much more ambiguous way but was also focused on psychic powers rather than paranormal activity. Florence presents herself as a committed skeptic, going so far as to write a book called "Seeing Through Ghosts." But as the film progresses and her defensive layers gradually peel away, it becomes obvious that her crusade is less about convincing the general public and more about convincing herself. Let it suffice to say that her reasons stem from emotions rather than by scientific curiosity.

One day, she's approached by Robert Mallory (Dominic West), a shellshocked World War I veteran who now teaches at a secluded all-boys boarding school outside the city. He wants her to investigate the recent death of one of the students, which ties into numerous reported sightings of a boy's ghost, the image of which has inexplicably shown up in group photos dating back to 1902. Florence's explanation of the boy's diffused image is logical enough, although she has yet to account for why the last photo, taken only weeks earlier, shows the boy looking out one of the building's windows. She initially refuses to involve herself, but in due time, she comes around. And so she travels with Robert to the boarding school, a bleak, borderline Dickensian world of strict regiment and harsh punishments. The teachers and staff skulk around, their eyes betraying fear, anger, and deep secrets. The boys stand around in constricting uniforms, their heads lowered guiltily.

Upon her arrival, Florence meets the housekeeper, who insists on being called Maud (Imelda Staunton). She's a right bundle of nerves, hovering around Florence with nothing but praise for her book and yet always seeming to know more than she's letting on. Always at Maud's side is a boy named Tom (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), a lonely orphan who inexplicably turns to Florence for solace. She sets up a series of still cameras, wire trips, powder trays for tracking footprints, and various pieces of machinery that would have been considered the latest in technology in 1921 – assuming they existed at all, and you'll forgive me for having no interest in doing the research. It's all in an effort to prove to the boys that there is no ghost wandering the halls. But ... what if there really is a ghost? How else to explain the strange occurrences that keep happening, some of which are rather startling?

To make the story about something more than the possibility of a spirit haunting an old boarding school, the filmmakers work in a mutual attraction between Florence and Robert, one that inevitably turns physical. It begins with a moment that could have been directly lifted from an erotic drama; while preparing a room with booby traps, Florence discovers that a hole in the wall gives her a view of the bathroom, and lo and behold, Robert emerges naked from the bathtub and treats a gaping wound on his right thigh. I'm not convinced of this subplot's necessity, although I will say that I appreciated the effort to make the film a character study as well as a supernatural thriller. Dominic West, known for his villain roles, at last is given the chance to play a sympathetic character, one who is, in a sense, haunted by his own ghosts.

The final act, which is surprisingly sentimental, requires high suspension of disbelief in order to seem even somewhat plausible. Is that to be expected from a movie like this? I suppose so, although even ghost stories have their limits. Still, there's a definite emotional payoff, one that stems from a logical progression of the plot and appropriate development of the characters. And let it not be said that the art direction, set design, cinematography, and costumes aren't put to good use. This film comes only six months after the release of "The Woman in Black," another suspenseful, atmospheric ghost story made by Hammer Studios in the tradition of classic horror movies. I found it incredibly satisfying, in large part because of its sense of style. "The Awakening" isn't quite up to that level, but it certainly accomplishes what it set out to accomplish.

-- Chris Pandolfi (
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Some good camera work here and there, but mostly a mash-up of better films
FairlyAnonymous6 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I will not lie and say that The Awakening was a poorly MADE movie, but I will say that it essentially tore any goodness that it had into pieces, burned them, and then quickly attempted to put them back together; as if they never burned in the first place.

The Awakening (yeah, another "The" horror movie) stars Rebecca Hall has a "modern woman" in London who hunts down ghosts and reveals the truths behind it. She is essentially a female Sherlock Holmes mixed with Scooby Doo. She apparently lost someone close to her, her parents, and has since become a strong independent woman. Now, I wouldn't say this in a cynical manner if it weren't for the fact that she is SUPER modern. The way she acts and dresses at times is much more typical of someone... eh 50-70 years ahead of the time period. There is nothing wrong with a strong female character, but when they seem to tear out of their time period it kind of... loses the atmosphere... and this movie tries a lot to have a good atmosphere.

Essentially, she has one last big case to do where she needs to go to a boarding school and solve the crime of a ghost child that has been haunting the place for awhile... and has led to a new death. She thinks she has solved the case at first, but things start to get strange, so she stays to solve the entire mystery. On her side is a man who works there, a lady who attends there, and a little boy named Tom.

Aaaaannnndddd... then the movie starts to make fun of the audience's intelligence. This strong independent woman decides to have super cliché sex with a man she has only just met... and to make things worse she does it within about .5 seconds after discovering that the ghosts are real. It truly doesn't make any sense. This character suddenly has a photograph of the ghost and then turns to the male character and vigorously makes out with him... and then they tear down the blinds which leads to all of their photographs of the ghost being destroyed.

This is the point in the movie where you can almost smell someone burning the script. It is as if someone said "You know this strong character who has been independent and all and is all about the evidence? The second she gets that evidence, let's have her have sex because she no longer feels independent and then have her DESTROY that evidence in the act... yeah... this is a good idea *sips tea*."

But it gets worse! Not five minutes later, the groundskeeper tries to rape her... completely out of nowhere. This scene has nothing to do with the plot, and it ends up with him dying, but it makes no sense at all.

And eventually we get to the movie's infamous and most obvious plot- twist. Tom (the little boy) was the ghost all along *buh bum BUUUMMMM*.

What makes this plot-twist painful is that it was the most obvious idea, so I automatically assumed that it couldn't be. Throughout the entire movie, this kid is not only never talked to by any of the other characters (in a direct manner, that is), but he also dresses and looks EXACTLY like the ghost they are hunting for.

"Huh, a character who shows in and out of the plot at random, which no one talks to, and looks EXACTLY like the ghost they are hunting for... this better not be taking a Sixth Sense route"

Unfortunately, this is where the movie desperately tries to reassemble itself. It tries to make sense of everything in the typical horror movie fashion "the main character was an important pawn for the ghosts, and she is holding repressed memories". So our main character turns out to be the sister (kind of) of Tom, and that the person that she lost was... Tom... all along. You think that would be hard thing to forget...

Long story short, The Awakening has a nice atmosphere, but it never truly becomes scary at any point. There is this random doll house that had some creepy moments, but it is never explained. One could theorize that the main character owned it as a child, and that Tom was showing it to her to kick-in her memories; however, this is never properly explained or shown... it is just an interesting little jump scare gimmick.

All in all, The Awakening had some potential if it wasn't so desperate on the cliché "everything is a big jumbled mess" horror movie ending.
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Not again!
mirwais-orbit16 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
There are some things quite interesting about this movie. It's well acted, the art design and the reproduction of the time is amazing. The direction is quite good and holds your attention and drowns you into the story.

But when the movie culminates to its resolutions, I felt a little disappointed... well, in fact, a lot disappointed! It all starts when Florence (Rebecca Hall) and Robert (Dominic West) have sex, till that moment the movie was great for me. But that happening was unnecessary for the plot development. OK, both were completely strangers and lonely in an era where casual sex was against the minds of that time and Rebecca's behavior clearly was for her loneliness and the lack of an affectionate sexual life. But anyway, that was simply thrown freely into the story and their approach should have been different and the meaning would still remain the same. From that on the movie was just a show of messy resolutions.

First of all, since The Sixth Sense (1999) this plot about ghosts and children are saturated and overdone, and since there are no longer any other interesting resolutions writers are lately figuring out that the exit for it all is mix every movie's conclusion and give a tone of something completely interesting and new when it truly is not. The Sixth Sense (1999), Stir Of Echoes (1999), The Others (2001) and The Orphanage (2007), you can find a little of them all in this one. But instead of providing an amazing surprise, it just take a tired "not that again" sentence from the audience.

Really disappointing. The writers took the most difficult way to offer more of the same.
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Tepid and Derivative
bregund30 October 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I just saw this film after a recommendation from a friend and I was disappointed. I expected a beguiling, atmospheric film but got a watered-down version of The Others infused with every haunted-house movie cliché over the last twenty years. My biggest problem with the film lies in Florence's lack of memory about the house she grew up in: this is very poor writing. If this apparently intelligent, lucid woman honestly can't remember that she's visiting a house that she used to live in, can't remember her father, and can't recognize her own dead brother, there needs to be some clearly-established precedent early in the film, otherwise it just appears to be a convenient deception on the part of the writers.

Other issues: there is no explanation for the father going nuts and taking out his family; Florence has zero gentility associated with the women of the time; it's confusing who knows which person is a ghost at what time; and little boys don't play with dolls or dollhouses. I found Florence unpleasant and rude, even when she was softened up by subsequent events. Why is Tom's face distorted, he wasn't shot in the face. The settings are gorgeous, but they certainly don't match the mediocre writing. And when Robert says "there are only three of us here," which three is he talking about, does it include the creepy caretaker? All in all, this film felt like a sequel to The Others, which wasn't even that great a film to begin with.
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Fantastic piece of work
Toominator19 July 2012
Wow! I just finished watching The Awakening, and I have to say I've not seen such a complete and entertaining Gothic tale since The Orphanage.

While The Awakening does not have quite the depth of angst of El Orfanato, it nonetheless maintains a constant tension and audience puzzlement up until the last few minutes, when more questions than answers are evident.

Rebecca Hall's Florence Cathcart, and the method used for her professional 'Ghost Busting' procedures reminded me of the scenes set in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes mythology. I can't quite put my finger on it, but it is definitely there.

7/10 - Highly recommended.
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The Second "Twist" Could have been better
culmo8014 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I really enjoyed this movie from the start through the finish despite the first twist.

The atmosphere is fantastic, from the opening scene onwards, there is a certain air to it that has you just waiting for something to jump out at you, without it being hokey.

I loved the main setting, of an old English estate house turned into a private boarding school. I thought the acting was great and I thought the film overall was very nicely done.

Spoilers Below:

I found the second twist, that she actually lived in that house and witnessed her father murder her mother and half-brother, to be a bit of a stretch. While it is certainly possible for a person to block out some memories, I find it very unlikely that anyone could block out their entire childhood and have no recollection upon seeing the house they grew up in.

As to the first twist, that Jonathan was a ghost, I found it clever. Sure, its been done before, but what hasn't? I think they did a nice job of keeping that a twist by having not one, but two people conversing with the ghost.

The third "twist" if that's what it was, was didn't know whether she died or not until almost the very end.

As for other parts...I felt the antagonism with the gardener/driver was an element of the plot that was unnecessary. Either more should have been done with that or it should have been cut.

Also, the sex scene was a little absurd. This woman just had the scare of her she goes with the guy to develop the film and when they see the ghost, she suddenly gets the urge and they have sex? If they wanted to keep that in, they could have moved it to earlier in the film, but it felt odd where they have it.

Anyway, this was a good film and if you like horror movies, this is one you should watch. It's not the best horror out there, but it is certainly better than most of the current crop of what is being marketed as horror; there are no cheap gimmicks or "shock'em with gore and blood" techniques here.
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A mighty muddle. No ghost of a doubt about it!
robingood306 December 2011
I wonder that people might have considered themselves justified in comparing this to such gems in the ghost-movie genre as The Devil's Backbone, The Orphanage or the supremely accomplished The Others. Let me warn you that this poor effort by a little-known director has very little in common with them, apart from a few similarities in the plot. I think the main fault of this film is its muddled screenplay which gets frankly ridiculous at some points in the story. The acting is not very good either and the characters are unattractive and uninteresting. They're also superficially drawn. I was very bored throughout the film and was relieved when it ended. I'm a great fan of ghost movies but I really believe this film doesn't deserve to be even remembered. It's just a jumble of stilted clichés and the director should have made up his mind whether he wanted to make a ghost film or a melodrama with mildly erotic overtones (yes, there's even room for that!). Yet even Dominic West's firm buttocks displayed in one peephole scene won't save this film from disaster.VERY BORING, HARDLY SCARY AND MOSTLY UNORIGINAL.
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Surprisingly stale
p-stepien19 January 2013
Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) is a conceited and renowned expert in the otherworld of ghastly ghosts. Or to more exact - an expert in demonstrating that they do not exist and uncovering parlour tricks used to create illusions of their presence. Nonetheless each and every time she disproves another false ghost, Florence sighs in anguish, almost hoping that her conviction were misplaced. When Robert Mallort (Dominic West) arrives from a boy's boarding school in Rockford, Cumbria, where a boy was supposedly murdered by a ghost, she reluctantly agrees to aide him. On arrival, she is welcomed by governess Maud (Imelda Staunton), who shows an very intense admiration for Cathcart. Florence immediately sets out to scientifically explain the ghostly apparitions.

Similar in tone and atmosphere to "The Others", Nick Murphy explores the haunting corridors of a vast run-down boarding school, together with all its creaking secrets and dimly lit corners. Despite my intense liking for old-fashioned ghost stories, "The Awakening" however failed in intrigue and turn on, quickly falling into traps of formulaic treatment. A far cry for recreating lasting suspense and - more importantly - an interest in the mansion's mystery, it plods out to a somewhat surprising, but ultimately dreary conclusion, which feels as if ripped off from a nameless ghost flick already seen. Despite some splendid visuals the overall feel just missed a touch of individual flair, making it overly repetitive for anyone with a wider outlook on similar movies. The disjointed narrative naturally does not help proceedings, as it jumps around failing to really get a hold of whatever key story it was telling - rushed in some places, sleepily overstaying its welcome in others.
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Extremely Muddled Ending...But Getting There is Worth a Watch
LeonLouisRicci28 March 2017
Atmospherically Glum and Goosebumby with its well Mounted Cinematography and Stunning, Captivating, Realistic, Scientific Devices makes this Muddled Movie Forever Watchable.

The Good Acting from the whole Cast Lead by Rebecca Hall and Dominic West also can Attract Attention.

But after the Story Unfolds and Certain Things are Revealed, the Film just Collapses under the Weight of Ambiguity, Confusion, and a Desire to Wallow in its Own Cleverness. It is one of the most Mysterious Missteps in Recent Movies about Ghosts, Haunting, and the Paranormal.

It leaves the Viewer Deflated of the Awesome Spectacle and Spectres Previously on Display. A Display that Captured and set a Convincing, Terrifying Tone.

But what Followed was, in the Last 20 Minutes, so Mishandled and Unfocused that it seemed like Another Writer and Director Took Over the Project.

Everything that made the Jarring Journey Unsettling was Discarded for a Wispy Wind-Up that Wanders All Over the Place with an Aloof Attitude about the Devastating and Consequential Considerings that made the Story so Profound to Begin with.
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Solid visuals and performances, but tonally uneven
evildress22 December 2016
"The Awakening" follows Florence Cathcart, an atheist in 1921 England whose career has been based on disproving faux psychics. She is invited by Robert Mallory, the headmaster of a remote boarding school, to assess the apparent ghost of a child who has been tormenting (and possibly causing the deaths of) the current children.

I went into this film a bit skeptical myself, as the plot outline rings of just about every contemporary ghost film out there. This one has the distinguishing factor of being a period piece, which is quite nicely done, and while the film does offer some solid twists and turns, it isn't a landslide success. Where the film does hit its marks is in atmosphere and performances. The cinematography is lovely and the film has a cold, ominous sensibility akin to "The Others." Foggy forests and the empty hallways of the sprawling school lend the film a deliciously creepy atmosphere. The performances are also strong, with Rebecca Hall as a formidable and convincing lead; Dominic West plays her counterpoint as the headmaster of the school.

Where the film seems to lose its bearings is in plot and tone. Some have complained that the narrative is convoluted or difficult to follow, which I didn't think was necessarily the case—in fact, that twists of the last half hour were quite intriguing— but it also begins to feel like a film that doesn't really have an identity. It haphazardly turns into a borderline murder-thriller for one moment before reverting back to its original ghost story obligations, and then awkwardly turning inward to Hall's character with a sentimental twist. It is not so much convoluted in terms of narrative, but convoluted in tone; the flashback scenes near the end are also awkwardly edited, which is a shame as they are key to the film's real clout.

Overall, "The Awakening," in spite of its shortcomings, is a considerably mature and effective ghost story. It does feel tonally uneven which is probably its greatest pitfall. That said, Hall's performance is great and understated, and the film captures a chilly, early-twentieth-century England phenomenally. It's not a flawless film, but as far as ghost stories go, it's one of the better of its contemporaries. 7/10.
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