The Twenty-First Century

The Awakening [2011]

Following the Spanish flu and World War I, the opening titles tell us “This is a time for ghosts.” Rebecca Hall (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, “The Town”) acquits herself admirably as skeptic Florence Cathcart who believes it’s a time for debunking ghosts instead. She’s the author of the book “Seeing Through Ghosts” and she is hired by teacher Robert Mallory (Dominic West) and matron Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton) to investigate their provincial boys boarding school where one of the students has died after seeing the ghost of another young boy. That’s the premise of “The Awakening”, a truly haunting and hypnotic ghost story that earns its chills old-school through artful atmospherics and no switching to unnecessary violence like so many recent horror flicks. It’s not that director Nick Murphy doesn’t resort to cheap tricks. He does. But the fun is in the technique. Hall, terrific in “The Town”, gives a stellar performance here. She is the focus of nearly every scene as she travels to that boarding school in order to solve the mystery. Is it a real ghost or is it fake? You’ll get no spoilers from me. “The Awakening” doesn’t break new ground, but in its suggestions of fine film ghost stories, from “The Others” to the more recent “The Woman In Black”, it works you over with riveting style.

Rating: 2.5/4

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