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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Awakening


Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton
RRP: £22.99
Certificate: 15
Available 26 March 2012

It is England 1921, just three years after the Great War. After losing her fiance to the war, Florence Cathcart has dedicated her life and career to investigating and proving that supernatural occurrences are hoaxes. She is invited to Rookwood, a private boarding school in the countryside, which is apparently being haunted by a young boy. She wastes no time in setting up her scientific monitoring equipment and laying traps. Very early on it appears obvious this is a schoolboy prank. The boys prepare to leave for the Christmas holidays, and Florence is keen to leave at the same time - that is until she undergoes a frightening experience and decides to stay. With just the matron, a teacher and a solitary boy remaining in the school, Florence tries to make sense of a number of ghostly sightings which seem to be centred around her...

I was somewhat excited at the prospect of a good old fashioned traditional ghost story. All the pieces are in place, the Victorian England setting, the paranormal investigator with a past, strange goings on at a boys’ boarding school. Unfortunately, after a strong start in which Florence infiltrates a séance to reveal a set-up, very little happens for some time. The school setting takes far too long to establish the important characters, when it should be doing so as the story unfolds.

Furthermore, there is nothing unusual enough about The Awakening to make it stand out. Having a distorted-faced ghost in the tradition of some classic 1990s East Asian classics pop up every now and then does not mean it is in the same league. It is all about story, pacing and characterisation.

Director Nick Murphy confesses not to be an expert in horror, and on that score he is quite correct, as this might work well as a BBC TV film, but we need more suspense these days. He has moved freely from genre to genre, so we are unlikely to see if he can improve on this. Even the end, a sort of mishmash of The Sixth Sense and John Carpenter’s The Ward, fails to deliver.

There are one or two good moments, the best by far being when Florence looks in the dollhouse and sees each room depicted as it is in the main house. She even sees herself leaning over and looking in the dollhouse. There is another figure behind her, but when she quickly turns around the door is just shutting behind her. However, creepy moments like this are few and far between.

Blu-ray extras include a commentary and separate interview with Nick Murphy, deleted scenes, behind the scenes, a trailer, and three featurettes under the title Anatomy of a Scene.


Ty Power

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