The Awakening REVIEW
Release Date: 26 March 2012
2011 | 15 | 102 minutes | £17.99 (DVD)/£22.99 (double-play Blu-ray)
Director: Nick Murphy
Cast: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton
It may be set in 1921 but this gloomy supernatural mystery certainly couldn’t have been filmed then. Certain elements feel surprisingly modern: repressed memories, self-mutilation… there’s even a little bath-time self-pleasuring. But of course, just because certain issues weren’t discussed in days gone by doesn’t mean they didn’t exist, and these psychological undercurrents add depth and interest.
Furthermore, The Awakening’s greatest strength is that it centres on an extremely confident female character, who seems remarkably liberated and independent for the time. Rebecca Hall plays Florence Cathcart, a skeptic who visits a boarding school to debunk reports of a ghostly boy.
It’s a beautifully mounted production whose crisp, cold tones and muted colours effectively conjure an air of chilly menace. Catchart’s proto-Ghostbusters equipment holds a Heath Robinson-esque fascination, and once he starts popping up to pull distorted faces the ghostly child is as capable of inducing goose-pimples as any vengeful J-horror spirit.
Unfortunately all this good work is fatally undone by an exasperating, credulity-stretching final-reel rug-pull which casts everything that went before in a different light (and in the process reveals the true meaning of that ambiguous title). Shyamalan, you have so much to answer for…
Writer/director Nick Murphy provides commentary and also contributes, along with key cast, to a clips-and-talking-heads Making Of (35 minutes). Experts on World War I and spiritualism add their voices for “A Time For Ghosts” (24 minutes), which provides historical context. A trailer completes the package.
Ian Berriman twitter.com/ianberriman
For an alternate perspective, read our The Awakening review from the theatrical release.
Read more of our DVD reviews.