The Awakening

Better than Red Bull or caffeine tablets, HARRY SHUKMAN finds The Awakening the best way to stop you from sleeping for a long time.

boarding school dominic west Film film review first world war ghosts harry shukman Horror Hostel imelda staunton Rebecca Hall scary the awakening The Happening

Directed: Nick Murphy

[rating: 4.5/5]

There comes a time in every horror film where you wish you could give some sound advice to the main characters. 

Like how its probably best not to stay the night in that abandoned mental asylum, and its not a genius plan to spend your summer in a camp conveniently close to a wandering serial killer. Maybe now you should also think twice before trying to get with that girl with an extra set of teeth

The Awakening is no different. When 1920s fake-ghostbuster Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) accepts an invitation to flush out a child ghost in a rural Cumbrian boarding school, you wish you could tell Florence that it’s not her most brilliant idea.

Who could resist an invitation to hunt the supernatural in this charming house?

Yet that’s where all the comparisons stop with B-movie horrors with bad choices. The Awakening is an amazing, incredible, suspenseful ghost story that comes with a twist you’d never expect.

We first meet Florence in London masterfully exposing a seance to be nothing more than smoke, mirrors, and a boy in a dress and make up, probably with a colourful future. All in a day’s work when you’re Britain’s number one female ghost hunter.

But bit by bit Florence’s life is shown to be a mess: she’s an orphan and still in mourning for her fiancé who never came back from the trenches. Cue the entrance of history master Robert Mallory (Dominic West) with an offer to find the young ghost haunting his boarding school who is far from friendly; he’s already claimed the life of a fellow student.

On arriving at the isolated grounds it only gets stranger; roaming the halls are a wheezing teacher (The Daily Mail favourite for constantly caning the kids), the elderly Nurse Ratched-like matron (wonderfully played by Imelda Staunton), and a terrifying doll’s house.

While saying more about the film could give its secrets away, what Florence finds in the house is something that with all her cases of ghost tracking gear could never have prepared for.

Even if you’re no good with horror it’s still worth your time. The Awakening is an expertly-paced scary movie that tells a gripping story. It’s not mindless torture porn like Hostel and doesn’t have a stupid premise like The Happening. It has got a great idea that works well and isn’t all about the shock factor. Though it’s not advisable to see it just before bedtime.


Courtesy of the Arts Picturehouse