Filmed on location at Manderston House in Berwickshire, also used for Richard E. Grant’s “First Night”, The Awakening is a spooky 1920’s ghost story set in a boys boarding school in the aftermath of WW1. We join our heroine Florence (Rebecca Hall, The Prestige) in the middle of a police sting as she de-bunks a hoax séance, breaking up a ring of fraudsters and packing them off to jail. Quickly gaining notoriety as the best ghost hunter in London, troubled Florence is recruited by broody school teacher and soon to be love interest Robert (Dominic West, The Wire) to investigate rumours of a ghostly boy killer stalking the students at his school. When Florence hears that the spectre has claimed one victim already, she puts her reservations aside and accepts the job.
In true 1920’s CSI fashion, Florence deploys a menagerie of forensics, traps and tripwires to undercover some underhand happenings and sinister school secrets. But has she even scratched the surface? Has she once again de-bunked the spooky suspicions of her clients or is she caught up in a supernatural sub plot that she has yet to comprehend?
Set in a stunning stately home and surrounded by incredible scenery, The Awakening does a great job of being spooky. The house is big and imposing, and for a large part of the film almost empty, highlighting the sense of loneliness that adds an eerie quality to the film.
While the two lead characters provide decent performances, Imelda Staunton’s (Vera Drake) portrayal of Maude, the troubled and eccentric housekeeper is a highlight. The storyline does contain some twists and sub-plot but is a little formulaic and unsurprising at times, especially with regards to the character’s back stories that are mentioned in the script but not really elaborated on by the performances.
All in all, if you are a fan of horror you will appreciate this film. Don’t expect to have your mind blown though… whilst it’s not down there with asparagus and custard, it’s definitely not cheese and beans!
Sean Carroll is a Technician, Projectionist and Screen Lounge operative at Phoenix square. His interests, when not watching films include and are almost exclusively limited to the realms of improvisational music composition, software design and loud noises.