The Awakening

An educated Hoax buster in the post WWI era visits an English boarding school to solve a mystery of a murdered boy and explain the fear of a child ghost.  Her beliefs become in question when she starts experiencing the horrors of the school herself.


Writers:  Stephen Volk (screenplay), Nick Murphy
Director:  Nick Murphy
Stars:  Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton
Run time/Rating:  130 Minutes/ PG-13
Popcorn Score:  Medium Popcorn

Hours can be spent scrolling through all of the Netflix Instant options in attempt to choose the perfect movie.  As my fingers grow tired moving the mouse I sometimes think of it as a new problem, too many options at our fingertips these days. This is only until I remember the days of old when an attempt at a movie night was spent walking for hours through the aisles of Blockbuster Video.  I guess not all that much has changed.

The last two Halloween seasons I have taken on the task of finding the perfect Horror movie “Watch Now” has to offer and I would argue that hours could become days or weeks to find the perfect movie when limited to that specific genre! Fortunately for me, a fellow viewer did the searching last night when we landed on “The Awakening”; a post WWI Ghost hunting movie set in an eerie boarding school for young boys outside of London.

At the open we meet Florence (Rebecca Hall, Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Prestige) she sits amongst a family who is eager to participate in a séance so they can reconnect with their son who died in the war.  Just as the room begins to shake and the candles blow out Florence pulls back the curtain, reviles the tricks and exposes the crooks that are making a living performing these hoaxes to the family and the police.  Florence is an author, educator and the leading person in the business of busting fake mediums.

This is the reason Robert Mallory (Dominic West, The Wire, The Affair) shows up at her door one afternoon and requests her to visit the Rockford school, a boarding school where a recent unsolved murder has occurred.  She arrives at the scene and is introduced to the small staff of the gigantic castle that remains during the off season.  Robert, the administrator type who beckoned her and is a shell shocked Veteran of the Great War, the creepy teacher, the creepy maintenance man, a priest, and finally the kind motherly housemaid Maud (Imelda Staunton, Harry Potter) who takes care of the lone school boy Tom, who stays at the house during the summer(Game of Thrones’ Isaac Hempstead Wright).  As of now the murder is believed to be done by the ghost of an old boy whose family occupied the house before it became a school.

Florence immediately sets up her traps in order to catch the “ghost” and hopefully solve the murder.  Although no one seems to be too worried about punishing the murderer, just more in convincing the children of the school that there are no ghosts.  Nevertheless, almost as immediately as she sets up her traps the horrors of the haunted mansion begin to creep in on her own thoughts and past.

It becomes a mystery/horror which has enough chilling moments to keep an eerie heightened sense throughout.  If horror movies can he divided into the thrasher or the psychological The Awakening certainly falls into the latter, and achieves it with goose bumps and arm hair straightening success on multiple occasions!  Above all else the movie is visually stunning.  The shots that are presented by director Nick Murphy and cinematographer Eduard Grau make the movie beautiful and interesting all while adding to the heightened level of fear.   Maybe not the perfect movie for all occasions, but for a movie at your fingertips during the spooky season, definitely one to save yourself some scrolling time and enjoy!

Medium Popcorn.   

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