The Awakening is a 2011 Horror film written by Stephen Volk and Nick Murphy who also directed. Shot at several locations in the United Kingdom, including the Manderston House, which has also been used in five other films. With a budget of approximately five million US dollars with the beautiful cinematography it was well spent.
After debunking a false seance in 1921 England, published author Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) is approached by Robert Mallory (Dominic West) a teacher at a boys boarding school. Mallory asks for her aid on behalf of Maud (Imelda Stauton) the school’s matron to investigate a haunting plaguing the school and the haunting’s involvement of a young student.. She agrees and visits the school and delves into solving the haunting. She shortly finds evidence the haunting is again a hoax while at the same time developing an attraction to Mallory. She learns the boy didn’t die from the ghost, but from an asthma attack brought on by becoming frightened. The school lets out for half-term leaving the school that was formally a house for a wealthy family empty save for Mallory, Maud, Cathcart and a student Tom (Isaac Hempstead-Wright). Cathcart starts seeing a ghostly apparition haunting the corners of the house and unable to leave the mystery unsolved forces her way into solving the legend of the schools haunting and its dark past.
First and foremost The Awakening is incredibly well acted and with its seasoned cast it’s not surprising. Rebecca Hall brings a lot to her role as Florence Cathcart. She plays well at being intelligent and determined, while at the same time as being damaged and unraveled towards the end of the film. Dominic West matches her performance, beat for beat and the two demonstrate believable chemistry. But I’ll admit that I have a hard time thinking of a single role that I don’t enjoy Dominic West in.
As I said the cinematography is stunning with wide beautiful shots that take full advantage of the scenery and architecture of the house. I have a strong fondness to period pieces when it comes to horror films. Mostly in the realm of ghost/hauntings and even holds some of my favorite monster films. Including one of the few werewolf films I’ve enjoyed enough to revisit, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning. I think it has to do strongly with how the lighting often used, old dim lanterns that struggle to push back the darkness creates a perfect atmosphere to set these kinds of stories by.
The only part of this film that felt misplaced to me was the attempted rape of Cathcart by Edward Judd (Joseph Mawle). It felt incredibly out of place for the tone of the film and brought little in the way of developing either the plot or the characters. It felt as though it was thrown in as a ham handed attempt to drop in a one line revelation that could have been just as easily handled in any number of other ways.
Final thoughts, other than the out of place attempted rape and the “twist ending” this a very well done film from start to finish. I could bash on the ending as it comes across as muddled and thrown together. But since there are more than enough hints that it starts to border on being predictable, I can tell what they were going for and can respect it. The acting is solid at its worst and incredible at more than a few moments, with the creepy atmosphere and stunning shots The Awakening worked well and was more than entertaining. Garnering it a respectable 7.5/10.