The Awakening was exactly what I was in the mood for, a good old fashioned ghost story, centered around a likeable and very attractive female character, by the name of Florence Cathcart, an author of debunking the supernatural and moonlighting as a ghost “buster”. She’s one extraordinary, yet damaged package. So, let’s get on with this review and bust some ghosts together, by reading on…
Short nitty-gritty plot description from IMDb is as follows: In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the ‘missing’ begin to show themselves.
Set in 1921, England, The Awakening tells the story of Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall), on her quest to debunk the supernatural and prove that ghosts do not exist and that there is no afterlife. She’s even written a book about it and it has become hugely popular, found on most book shelves right next to the Bible. Because of this, Robert Mallory (Dominic West) comes to Florence in need of her skills to help investigate the death of one of his students at an English boarding school; the boy just before being found dead, claimed he saw a ghost. Robert shows Florence photographic evidence of the ghost throughout the years and this intrigues Florence enough for her to come along and do some investigating.
Florence immediately gets to work on disproving this ghost and sets up a bunch of interesting equipment that will detect, whether there really is a ghost, or if it’s some kids playing a cruel prank. The first night’s not even over and we see some really spooky stuff happening, but also evidence that it could all just be the work of some over imaginative kids. Could it just be a hoax, or is it really a spirit of a little boy haunting the halls?
The Awakening does a great job of establishing that Florence is very much a skeptic of ghosts. She goes to great lengths to prove that they don’t exist and we the audience start siding with her, even when a bunch of strange and creepy events start unfolding at night. Sounds of kids laughing and running the halls, a guy with a shotgun roaming around and the ringing of bells (Florence’s trap to catch kids pulling pranks) throughout the night, are a constant reminder that something isn’t right. Yet, the movie does have you wondering if all of this stuff is just some form of a traumatic experience resting in Florence’s head, or just some kids being kids. That is, until there is about 20 minutes of the film left and things start to fall apart and throw the spooky out the window and pick a been there done that twist.
I won’t go into the specifics of the twist, but it does bring my overall enjoyment of the movie down. I rather we just go the tried and true haunting and nothing more. I know, you’re probably thinking, why do something old and boring? That’s the thing, The Awakening’s twist comes off as being the same old same and ends up being boring and lacking nevertheless. However, I should point out that the actual ending of the movie, more than makes up for the pointless twist and leaves you with a few delectable questions, that never get completely answered, yet leaves you thinking about the movie long after it’s over.
The Awakening, faults and all, is a good ghost story, with a some great acting from all involved. The English countryside setting invokes a Gothic wonderment and enlists some truly spooky moments when the lights are out. The film may lose it’s footing a little when it introduces an unnecessary twist, but more than makes up for it with an ending that leaves you wondering. The Awakening manages to come out on top as being one ghostly tale, that’s worth telling again.