Horror Review: The Awakening
To begin with, I’d just like to apologize for the fortnight-sized gap between this and my last review. I thought I might as well wait until the awesomeness of Books Week had subsided before I reimmersed you into the world of horror with my second edition. Paying attention to the comments from last time, I've decided to counter the gore-horror with paranormal-horror. So this week I give you something with ghosts: The Awakening. Well, the 2011 film of that name, that is, since this has been a popular name for all kinds of films and novels over the years.The Awakening
Overview: It’s 1921 in England, and a published debunker of all things paranormal named Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hill) is met by a private school teacher named Robert Mallory (Dominic West), who claims that his school has been inhabited by a genuine ghost. Convinced that all haunting will be nothing more than a schoolboy prank, she tries to prove Robert wrong. Initially, all that we know about Florence is that she has an undefined past that she blocked out after spending years convincing herself that ghosts can’t possibly be real. When the paranormal activity increases and Florence’s scientific approaches fail to find any leads, she slowly realizes that the school may actually have a ghost. Along the way, she becomes friends with a young orphan named Thomas, a housekeeper named Maud, and falls in love.
Opinion: In all honesty, you don’t need huge confidence pants to make it through The Awakening. It’s the first BBC horror film to have ever come to my attention, but in true BBC fashion, they have opted to tell a scary story as opposed to just scare you to death. I watched this almost immediately after watching The Woman in Black and the two have noticeable similarities: a period setting; a theme of children; a troubled protagonist. The Awakening isn't as intense as Daniel Radcliffe’s haunted house flick, but it had a story that made more sense in the end. In some ways, it feels as though you’re watching a combination of three concepts: the haunted private school, the girl with the lost past, and the nonbeliever who gets proved wrong. The acting, especially on Rebecca Hall’s part, is highly commendable and successfully draws you in. Unfortunately, when I watched it, it did feel as though it took a while to reach explanations about what was going on and why, which was quite frustrating. Even after you find out why Florence is so troubled, you’re still left with a great many questions.
Gore element: Okay, so it doesn't really count as gore, but this seems like the appropriate section to mention that there’s a bit of non-sexualized nudity when Florence discovers that the ghost is watching her in the bath. There's also an attempted rape, depending on how you interpret it. You also get to watch a bunch of murders that make Florence recollect her blocked-up past. Other than that, there’s a lot of talk of murder and traumatized schoolboys, but the violence is mostly implied as opposed to displayed.
Psychological element: This film is a psychological thriller right down to its core. It may not be as far along on the “psychologically messed-up spectrum” as films like The Last Exorcism and The Grudge, but it is still a very firm ghost story. There’s one particular scene where Florence finds a dollhouse containing models of herself in situations that she has been in throughout the day—one of them even shows a model-Florence peering into a miniature version of the dollhouse, suggesting that the ghost is inexplicably in the room with her...
Ultimate Spoiler: It’s a weirdly happy ending for the romance between Florence and Robert. At the same time, finding out that the boy you’ve spent the last few days connecting with is actually the ghost of a brother you forgot about due to trauma is never a good thing. Especially not when somebody tries to kill you so that you can be your dead brother’s playmate for all eternity. When you realize that all of the strange, spooky happenings have simply been her dead brother’s way of helping her remember who she really is, all of the scenes that you spent the last hour watching tensely suddenly turn very sweet and tragic.
Recommendations: If films on par with The Woman In Black don’t leave you tearing your confidence pants in half, then you should be able to sit through The Awakening without wanting to cower behind the sofa. The film is clever and inventive more than it is suspenseful, so it’s a good one to watch if you like films that end with a decent explanation that makes ghosts seem much less formidable.
Would you watch The Awakening?
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