Film Review: The Awakening

Nick Murphy’s The Awakening is a supernatural chiller that is successful for the most part. The film is reminiscent of several other ghost films, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. 

Writer and exposer of supernatural hoaxes, Florence Cathcart is inundated with requests after the First World War. Teacher Robert Mallory visits Florence to ask for her help with a disturbing matter. Children at his boarding school have reported sightings of an apparition…

There is something distinctly old-fashioned about The Awakening. Rather than feeling redundant, this feel is actually quite appealing. The scares in Murphy’s film are somewhat predictable, but are in keeping with the classic feel. The Awakening evokes The Innocents in both its style and its themes. Although it is not quite at the same level as the 1961 film, the atmosphere it generates is admireable.

The narrative works well to reel viewers in. The opening sequence is a great introduction to the work of Florence. It also pulls the curtain back on a fascinating subject: seances of the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries. The sense of mystery keeps viewers hooked. Later in the film, old clichés are relied upon. It is a shame, as the film builds tension and mystery up to this point.

Rebecca Hall delivers a fine performance as Florence. The actress has good chemistry with co-star Dominic West. Art direction in The Awakening is fantastic, pivotal to generating atmosphere. The doll’s house sequence is marvellously executed, bringing genuine chills.

The Awakening may produce feelings of déjà vu, but it is perfect viewing if you are looking for some supernatural escapism.

The Awakening is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011. The film is released in cinemas on 11th November 2011.