‘The Awakening’ is delightfully old-fashioned
Directed by Nick Murphy
Written by Stephen Volk and Nick Murphy
United Kingdom, 2011
The horror genre goes through phases, often flooding the marketplace with outrageous rip-offs of a good concept. In the 21st century, horror has been mostly found-footage or torture porn, all the time. It’s not often that something without excessive gore or ghosts who aren’t dark-haired girls, a la J-horror antagonists, squeaks through. 2012 has been a lucky time for horror fans who appreciate scares of a less bloody nature, what with CBS Films’ The Woman in Black and now another British entry, The Awakening. The Awakening, while not as successful as The Woman in Black at generating tension, is a decent and somewhat unnerving ghost story.
Rebecca Hall of Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Town plays Florence Cathcart, an author and paranormal debunker. It’s 1921 in England, where quite a few people believe ghosts are everywhere due to the many millions of World War I-related deaths, and even more people want to exploit their grief. After a successful and dryly funny debunking in the opening sequence, Florence is visited by a boarding-school teacher (Dominic West) who wants her to explore the school for signs of a mysterious, ghostly child who’s literally frightened some students to death. Though she’s skeptical—Hall, among displaying many other fine qualities, is an actress whose face was built to express an almost smug level of doubt—Florence takes the trip. She soon finds that this case isn’t so easy to poke holes through, as she encounters more frights and trauma than she’d expected.