THE AWAKENING (2011) Reviews and overview

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[Total: 5   Average: 3/5]

The Awakening is a 2011 British supernatural horror feature film directed Nick Murphy (The Mist TV series; Dracula TV series) from a screenplay co-written with Stephen Volk (The Guardian; The Kiss; Gothic). The movie stars Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton and Isaac Hempstead-Wright.


In 1921, England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she believes unravels as the ‘missing’ begin to show themselves…

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“Cinematographer Eduard Grau maintains a healthy, overcast atmosphere throughout, even when things go indoors, helping give the ghosts, in all their forms, an expectedly welcome place to manifest themselves within.  Everything feels like a nice British chamber Guignol, mildly stodgy and claustrophobic…” Allusions of Grandeur

” … a ghost story with a nice kick and deeply felt emotions. The surface details suggest a banal return to a formulaic haunting, yet The Awakening, while imperfect, captures an intensity of gradually eroding conviction that carries the iffy material all the way to the intriguing head-scratcher of an ending.”

The Awakening unfolds in a purposely calculated manner that matches the supernatural literature of its setting’s post-Victorian era. Some call that boring; I call it a slow ratcheting of suspense, and the lovely, headstrong Hall serves as a terrific guide through the good ol’ ghost story.” Flick Attack

“I found the final, colossal revelation to be contrived, but there are some nicely creepy moments, and director and co-writer Nick Murphy interestingly dramatises some of the neuroses feeding the appetite for ghostly phenomena…” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“Some of the creepiest stuff actually happens outside of the ghost hunting and what you don’t see.  It’s not a scare-fest, but it’s intense and well-written. It’s absolutely stunning to look at in that gloomy, foggy, muted colors way you want your British ghost stories to be.” Horror Honeys

” …the film has a strong and well-written series of themes that run throughout about fear, loneliness and the guilts of the past. Perhaps the least satisfying section of the film is when it feels the need to have to throw in a M. Night Shyamalan-esque conceptual spin…” Moria

“The trouble was, there was a very decent ghost story that could have been drawn from this groundwork, it’s just that the filmmakers chose to plump for sensation (loud music courtesy of Daniel Pemberton overemphasising every fright) over a nice, creepy atmosphere.” The Spinning Image

“Rarely does a horror film make the back of your neck tingle with the calibre of its performances as well as its jumps and jolts – but The Awakening, a beautifully mounted ghost story in the style of The Turn of the Screw, provides chills of both kinds.” The Telegraph

” …familiar goings-on featuring the requisite dank shadowy halls and dead children mouthing CGI-stretched Edvard Munch screams. Nick Murphy’s big screen directorial debut has good atmospherics that only go so far to prop up a mystery whose overdue explanation is convoluted and underwhelming.” Variety

Cast and characters:

  • Rebecca Hall … Florence Cathcart
  • Dominic West … Robert Mallory
  • Imelda Staunton … Maud Hill
  • Isaac Hempstead Wright … Tom Hill
  • Shaun Dooley … Malcolm McNair
  • Joseph Mawle … Edward Judd
  • Diana Kent … Harriet Cathcart
  • Richard Durden … Alexander Cathcart
  • John Shrapnel … Reverend Hugh Purslow
  • Cal MacAninch … Freddie Strickland
  • Lucy Cohu … Constance Strickland
  • Anastasia Hille … Dorothy Vandermeer
  • Andrew Havill … George Vandermeer
  • Tilly Vosburgh … Vera Flood
  • Ian Hanmore … Albert Flood
  • Steven Cree … Sergeant Evans
  • Alfie Field … Victor Parry
  • Felix Soper … Julian Dowden
  • Sidney Johnston … John Franklin


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