One of the most buzzed about genre films at this year’s TIFF was Nick Murphy’s supernatural period piece, The Awakening, which stars “The Wire’s” Dominic West and the enchanting Rebecca Hall.
The movie opens in 1921 England, which is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart (Hall) visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. There she confronts a malicious ghost who is haunting both her and the children.
The strongest attribute of the film is the scope and stunning cinematography, both of which combine to make a surprisingly good-looking period piece. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Murphy and Stephen Volk is another in a long line of ghost stories that end with a whimper.
Not only is the film’s twist incredibly lame, but the entire third act is an epilogue. They even go as far as to show the audience everything explained as if they couldn’t figure it out on their own. Even worse, the twist itself, when explained, negates ALL scares and even makes the red herring laughable (they kill the dude, bury him, and it’s a complete afterthought). To give you a clue, the big reveal is 12 years too late.
Even the strong performances by Hall and West can’t overcome the dramatic finale that bloated with exposition and ZERO scares. If anything, The Awakening is an atmospheric period dramatic thriller that shouldn’t be sold as a horror film.
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