'The Awakening' (Stephen Volk, 2011, Studiocanal/BBC) is a movie which is close to my heart for two reasons:
1) It's British
2) I helped make some of the props for it!
Yes, I'm not even lying, you see Florence's machines? I helped make those in Edinburgh 3 summers ago!
Ok, hyper boasting session over... Almost....
'The Awakening' is a nice little jaunt into post WW1 Britain. Florence (Rebecca Hall) is an author and sceptic of the supernatural, who goes about debunking ghosts, mystics and general fraudsters. There's also a little bit of sub-plot to explain why she's so enraged by charlatans (I'll give you a hint, it's post World War One and she's suddenly very single).
She's approached by an all-boys boarding school teacher (Dominic West) to come and solve the mystery of their 'Ghost Boy' after the untimely death (by fright) of one of their pupils. After some convincing, she finally tags along and is quick to 'solve' the mystery using her wonderfully almost-Steam-Punk gadgets (yes, those things I helped make again), proving it to be nothing more than a childish prank gone wrong.
Or is it...?
Eventually she has to face up to the reality of ghosts, and come to terms with some other truths too. While also enjoying romantic ties with Mr. West.
A very well acted, slow burner. There's some enjoyable jumps which keep it entertaining and the effort to make the film feel like the correct time period is commendable. Also creepy dollshouses? Yes please!
The character of Maud (Imelda Staunton), the timid, friendly cook and nurse to the school boys is very well done, and feels like she fell straight out of some Classic literature.
The special effects are moderate but effective and hark back to the original Hammer Horror movies where suspense was built up without much bloodshed. And I do enjoy a creepy ghostly photograph anyday!
I also happen to know the props are awesome!
The main issue with this movie is the ending. It feels very rushed and there's an amazing scene with a 'maze like' feel that is ruined by lack of screentime. The unneeded 'surprise' extra twist does nothing for the story; the first revelation of who the ghost was is enough, but the extra sub-plot ruins an otherwise enjoyable traditional horror.
A good watch if you're not a gore-hound.