She arrives with an array of gadgets and tools to catch what she assumes to be prankster kids, but the longer she stays in the old mansion, the more she experiences unexplained events -- most notably, the ghostly figure of a schoolboy roaming the grounds. When the students go home for the holidays, Florence and Robert are left alone with school matron Maude (Imelda Staunton), caretaker Edward Judd (Joseph Mawle) and one student, Tom (Isaac Hempstead Wright), who can't make it to India to reunite with his parents. With the halls emptied, secrets are revealed and dangers arise as Florence uncovers a decades-old mystery that threatens to become the last case she ever investigates.
The End Result
As such, The Awakening's strengths lie in its character-driven script, from writer Stephen Volk, whose impressive (and oft-overlooked) string of genre work includes Gothic, The Guardian, The Kiss, Octane (AKA Pulse) and Ghostwatch. The Awakening often plays more effectively as a drama than as a horror movie, in part because of its well-developed characters and emotional performances and in part because the scares are rather tepid. Despite the inherently goosebumpy surroundings, director Nick Murphy fails to milk the film's fright potential. It has its moments (a dollhouse scene is particularly effective), but Murphy's background as a documentarian comes through in the sterile and predictable attempts to elicit screams. The cheesy CGI ghost effects don't help matters and feel out of place in what's otherwise a down-to-earth period piece.
The twisty story demands -- nay, requires -- repeat viewing, with some elements seemingly left "up to interpretation" and others just downright confusing. Given a little thought, though, and some backtracking, things fall into place nicely, and the intelligence of the script shines through with a insightful message about living haunted lives.
- Acting: B (Strong efforts all around.)
- Direction: C (Captures the surrounds beautifully but misses the mark horror-wise.)
- Script: B (A challenging and twisty mystery with an emotional core.)
- Gore/Effects: C- (Little gore, mediocre CGI effects.)
- Overall: B- (A smart, dramatic ghost story with a touching human element.)
The Awakening is directed by Nick Murphy and is rated R by the MPAA for some violence and sexuality/nudity. Release date: August 17, 2012.