Review: The Awakening

Director: Nick Murphy

Screenplay: Stephen Volk, Nick Murphy

Key Cast: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton

Rating: 2 stars

I have a very masochistic relationship with horror films. Although I don’t enjoy watching them, I often force myself to step into that poorly-lit room, and subject myself to the terrorizing and emotionally scaring two hours of torture. Perhaps it’s the Eastern European upbringing, but the need to ‘toughen up’ always seemed to outweigh the fact that I hate horror. As of writing this, I still don’t know why I volunteered to review this film.

That being said, watching The Awakening truly was an experience like none other. Set in 1920s England, it’s the story of a young hoax exposer Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) and her most mysterious case – the alleged sightings of a child ghost at a remote boys’ boarding school in Cumbria (wrongly confused with Cumberland, the region’s actual name until 1974), where a boy had recently been found dead. Having been brought in by one of the school’s teachers, Robert Mallory (Dominic West), Florence sets to work, laying traps and gathering scientific evidence to catch the aforementioned ghost, or most likely, to disprove his very existence and to find the true murderer in one of the school’s inhabitants. During her stay Florence encounters the school’s gatekeeper, Edward Judd (Joseph Maule), has some awkward conversations with Robert Mallory, as well as watching him take a bath, and is egged on by the cooky school matron, Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton) in her investigation.

In spite of the initially intriguing storyline and a very tense music score throughout, the film goes downhill from the moment Cathcart arrives at the school. The plot thickens when a new level is introduced into the story – Cathcart’s confusing personal background. Being a deep thinker, she spends very little of her time actually trying to solve the mystery – when she’s not looking for ghosts, she is falling into rivers or walking through dark forests. Having resolved the case, Florence prepares to leave, but swiftly changes her mind, having had a chilling spectral encounter, which defies all of her rational beliefs. There are lots of jumpy scenes and more creepy-looking children to throw her off her game, but eventually she discovers the greater meaning behind it all. Unfortunately for the viewer, the ending is the most ludicrous and disappointing part of the film.

Nevertheless, there are some positives in all this – many scenes are so absurd, they are actually funny; and although insane and stupid, the ending is anything but predictable. Do not pay to watch this film, but if you have nothing else to do on a Friday night, and have run out of comedies to watch, this is your gig.


An edited version of this article appeared in Issue 770 of the Newspaper of the LSE Students’ Union, The Beaver.

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