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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 22 May 2017
The Awakening is an old school ghost story. Set in 1921, a highly educated woman is set to prove that the afterlife does not exist but is presented with a ghost hunt that might change her beliefs. This is a well done, classy ghost story with some good performances all round. The underrated Rebecca Hall portrays a complex character who has locked her emotions away. Dominic West and Imelda Staunton are also good, much like the rest of the British cast. I thought the camerawork was clean with some nice slow panning motions to keep viewers on edge. The setting is atmospheric and there are some creepy moments. Don't go into this thinking that it's a horror film, no no no. It chooses to be a drama with the ghost story on the side, which may or may not suit you. As the film progresses, it tries to be clever and have a shocking twist but unfortunately it loses its way...the story is smarter than that which is a shame. It does include some unnecessary jump scares which detracts from the story and the effects on the ghost itself were slightly bland (in fairness, low budget...but still). This isn't your standard American horror film, this focusses on a grief stricken character but unfortunately the narrative does lose its way. Still worthy of a watch!
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Florence Cathcart'(Rebecca Hall) does not believe in the super-natural, she's even written a successful book on the matter.
A teacher from a boarding school approaches her telling of images seen frequently at the school, even showing photographic evidence, he wants her, before the end of term to go to the school and reassure the children that they have nothing to fear, and despite a recent tragedy it was safe to return after the holiday.
'Florence' sets up several 'Ghost' traps and photographic settings, if anything came into the room it would be recognised.
Still disbelieving, Florence soon see's and hears things and initially brushes aside the evidence, however as it intensified 'Florence' has to question her long held beliefs.
The early part of the film does indeed have moments of tension, the outcome ??? ...well i'd say, worth watching at least.
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on 21 June 2013
Rebecca Hall stars as Florence Cathcart an educated woman who debunks spiritualists. The movie opens with a seance in 1921 London. Our heroine springs into action.

She is then requested to come to an orphanage where a ghost of a boy has been spotted and photographed. She dismisses the ghostly images, and accepts the task.
Florence is an independent and educated woman, who smokes. She reminded me of Anne Hathaway in this role. As her investigation proceeds, Florence begins to doubt her skepticism/atheism.

Interesting film with a twist that has clues. Good use of sound. Enjoyable. 4 1/2 stars.

PARENTAL GUIDE: Sex and nudity (male and female)
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on 6 October 2012
This could have been a really engaging film but ultimately very disappointing in terms of the plot - doesn't seem to know if it's a real ghost story or some sort of inner journey and ends up being neither. The acting was good but let down by the plot - hoped for more than was delivered - ok but slow and laboured and will not be watching a second time.
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on 6 November 2015
Not ghosty enough, Dominic West does a great British accent though. Boring film.
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on 14 June 2012
Predictability in a ghost story isn't always a problem. Stock situations can be twisted into something new, or they can be assembled to produce a template that, even if it doesn't surprise, can still produce a sense of unease and a few shivers.

The Awakening has all of the expected elements: a large, foreboding building; spooky children; mordant, sadistic teachers; a creepily predictive dolls house; unexplained footsteps; a kindly, but ultimately bonkers housekeeper; and a handsome bit of totty for the leading actress to fall in love west (Dominic West, in this instance). And there are substantial echoes of other films, most notably The Orphanage and The Turn of the Screw, but also of less exalted forebears, such as The Others.

It's decently if unimaginatively directed, with striking cinematography - the colours are washed out to the point where, in places, it resembles a film shot in black and white. There is competent, sometimes excellent acting.

But then there's the script. And what a confused farrago that is:

It tries to be a psychological thriller so that the ghosts that haunt the central characters are their own personal phantoms.

It tries to be a traditional ghost story, but lacks the imagination or craft to do more than clumsily recycle stock elements from other films.

There are scenes that are not only superfluous but resort to blunt stereotyping (a scene showing attempted rape is not only the crudest of plot devices but shows that people who opted not to fight in the war are Very Bad People).

Worst of all, there's The Twist. I didn't see it coming, but it's completely ludicrous, lacking believability, and isn't signalled in any form by preceding events. It's not like a film like The Sixth Sense, where revelation forces the viewer to go back and re-evaluate what they have seen so far. At this point the film descends so completely into melodrama that it becomes not atmospheric but an unknowing form of camp, and it's difficult not to suppress a giggle, which is presumably not what its makers intended.

So: predictable, in the worst way, and cliché ridden, and ridiculous, and at the film's conclusion, which clumsily attempts ambiguity, you feel nothing more than a sense of relief that it's finally come to an end. There are worse ways to waste two hours of your life, I suppose, but not many.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 October 2015
The Awakening is directed by Nick Murphy and Murphy co-writes the screenplay with Stephen Volk. It stars Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton, Isaac Hempstead Wright, Shaun Dooley and Joseph Mawle. Music is by Daniel Pemberton and cinematography by Eduard Grau.

Britain, post World War 1, and Florence Cathcart (Hall) makes a living as an exposer of charlatan spiritualists, a debunker of ghost sightings. When she receives a request from school master Robert Mallory (West) to investigate the supernatural events at a remote boarding school for boys, she is suitably intrigued to take on the assignment...

It comes as no surprise to find that numerous reviews for The Awakening make reference to ghost story films that were made previously. The Woman in Black released a year later would suffer the same fate, charges of it not bringing nothing new to the table etc. A ghost story set in a big mansion or remote educational/correctional establishment is what it is, and will continue to be so, all fans of such spooky fare ask is that it does it well and maybe add some adult themes into the bargain. The Awakening does these in spades.

The concept of a disbeliever in ghosts having their belief system tested to the full is not new, but it's a great concept and one with longevity assured. Here, boosted by a terrific performance from Hall, the screenplay consistently keeps you guessing. The possibilities of real or faked are constant as the director pumps up the creep factor, whilst he simultaneously crafts a number of genuine shock sequences - including one of the best doll house scenes put to film! This really has all the requisite jolts and atmospheric creeps for a period spooker.

It's not until the final quarter when the screenplay begins to unravel its mystery, a finale that has proved both ambiguous and divisive. The ambiguity factor is a little baffling since everything is made clear in a nicely staged scene, and this is something which the director has gone on record to state as well. As for the divisive side of things? That's a blight for this sub-genre of horror. It's convoluted! Contrived! It has been done before they cry! These are true to be sure, and without doubt there's a leap of faith required to not get annoyed, but it garners a reaction and has done its ghost story essence very well indeed.

Beautifully photographed, scored and performed by the leads to boot, this is for sure one for fans of period spookers with brains. 7.5/10
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on 22 April 2013
A decent little atmospheric ghost story. Refreshingly free of the cheap scares currently associated with '15' rated so-called horror movies, and virtually gore-free. I thoroughly enjoyed this for what it is, and a steal at the current deal price.
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on 3 August 2012
I had been waiting for a decent British film in the vein of "The Others" when this came along. I don't understand how the success of "The Others" - a well written, quality, supernatural story - didn't inspire more imaginitive releases during the following years but, finding this, and reading the positive reviews, I anticipated what I had been looking for. Unfortunately, the film is largely disappointing.

There are some good points. The cinematography successfuly evokes what I imagine to be the atmosphere of a post-WWI public school, with a melancholy, washed-out treatment, and it is well directed (in my opinion). However, there isn't much else to recommend this film. The most immediately glaring problem is Rebecca Hall - from the moment she first appeared my suspension of disbelief failed, and disbelief came crashing down on my head. Her interpretation of this role is thoroughly 21st century, and irritating. This is not helped by some of the dialogue, which certainly doesn't belong in the era this is set in. Dominic West at least 'got it' and made his character believable, despite the dialogue and a script full of holes.

It is not enough to take a superficial look at "The Others" and then to treat it as a template to which you bolt half-baked, lazy script-writing and entirely the wrong lead actress. This type of film doesn't need a huge budget, or big names, to make it work. It does require imagination, a quality script, and actors with some empathy for the roles they play.

This could have been good. It must have been frustrating for the director and cinematographers - an opportunity to produce another fine British ghost story, wasted.
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on 30 July 2014
The film would get four and a half stars. The director-writer's commentary is unusually intelligent as well. I knocked it down from a probable five to three stars because of the rather tiresome disc navigation but mainly because of the forced trailers at the start of the disc. These last about 7-8 minutes and although you can scan through them they cannot be bypassed. Presumably courtesy of Studio Canal. I don't object to this kind of thing on rented discs but certainly do object to this kind of advertising on something I've bought.
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