“Set in post-World War I England in 1921, THE AWAKENING follows a skeptical woman (Rebecca Hall THE TOWN) who travels to a countryside boarding school to investigate rumors of an apparent haunting. Just when she thinks she has debunked the ghost theory, she has a chilling spectral encounter which defies all her rational beliefs.”
Nick Murphy’s supernatural mystery, THE AWAKENING, would probably be a more effective film, had it been made pre-1999. Its atmosphere and tone isn’t bad per se’, but it definitely falls into the ‘been there, done that’ fare. While it attempts to not be yet another twist-ending THE SIXTH SENSE clone, it unfortunately ends up being that, leaving viewers with a feeling of “oh..well I saw that a mile away”.
THE AWAKENING follows Florence Cathcart (the always beautiful and talented Rebecca Hall, THE TOWN, THE PRESTIGE), a woman who has devoted quite a few years of her life so far, into debunking ghost sightings. After an impressive opening involving Florence pretty much making a seance look like a joke, she’s approached by Robert Mallory (Dominic West, 300, THE WIRE), a teacher of a boarding school for orphaned children regarding a recent death of one of its students and many sightings of a “ghost”. Always the skeptic, Cathcart takes on the case, and does her best to expose the sightings as nothing but chicanery.
Unfortunately, the closer the film gets to the middle mark, and as things get going, it’s not much of a mystery as to what’s going on. Past secrets involving a family that was slain and how that plays into Cathcart’s past is revealed, along with the reason a young boy seems to gravitate towards her. While the setup keeps people wondering what’s going on, once things begin to be revealed, you’re not left with a “holy crap” reaction that films like THE SIXTH SENSE of similar takes on ghost stories left you with. It’s more of a slap to the face, making you wonder why you sat through it all.
Full of decent performances by Hall and West, the film loses its steam halfway through and leaves the viewer wondering why they didn’t just revisit past films that did it better. It’s worth a look, but nothing to write home about.
THE AWAKENING is available on DVD/BLURAY and on Netflix Instant now via Universal.