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Paranormal skeptics, ghosts and ghost hunters
The Awakening (DVD)
Member Name: Mac83
The Awakening (DVD)
Advantages: Interesting story
Disadvantages: The rushed ending may have spoilt the entire film
The story is set in 1920 England, after the war, and revolves mostly around a writer and paranormal sceptic, Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall), who spends some time in a boarding school to investigate a report that a ghost has been sighted. She was told that a boy in the school had died of fright after seeing a ghost, but how much of this is true is unknown to her. So as she investigates further, she uncovers and encounters things she never thought she would, which then makes her question what she really believes and whether her very rational way of thinking and believing was the best explanation.
* The beginning: As the film opens, we get to learn Florence's character straight away with the help of the events of the first few scenes. We see that she works with police in order to expose supernatural hoaxes with the use of rational explanation and science. The first scenes begin in London, and since the plot actually brings on an appealing and interesting flavour right from this very point, we definitely get the impression of more fun to come. The story doesn't remain in London for the entire film and moves to a lonely countryside where they have made their way to the boarding school. As the atmosphere of the film seems to have been set from this stage, we next are introduced to the main characters so that from the beginning we feel settled into the plot line of the film. Overall a really good start to the film, and a beginning which no viewer is likely to leave from this point.
* The characters / cast: Florence is tormented by the death of her fiancÚ and we learn that this is the reason for her ideas and her skeptism when it comes to supernaturalism. During the 1920, the sort of reasoning like science and rationalism over the supernatural was not a really accepted, and people would have favoured the spiritualism over science. I think Florence's character comes across really well in the film as throughout most of it we get where she is coming from, we feel for her because of the way we become convinced by the emotions and pick up on her traumatic past, which is exactly how we are supposed to feel about the lead character and this is just helped by her acting which was persuasive during the important scenes and events, and builds up the story to make it incredibly intriguing. "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and "The Town" were films I had watched seen that Rebecca Hall starred in but I did think that this was a whole new adaption in comparison to those other two films. Another focal character of the film Dominic West as Malleroy, also does an great job playing the head teacher of the school, though he did seem to be hidden a little bit in the background, along with Imelda Staunton who does some excellent acting as the questionable housekeeper Maud, but to me, she did seem as though she was the same housekeeper taken out of the film "The Others" and if anyone had seen "The Others", as a result of the story in that film, we naturally cant help feel suspicious of Maud in this film! Overall "The Awakening" features a really super cast that contribute to make the film as solid as possible.
* The story:The idea of the story is something that is certainly likely going to grab hold of your interest but really in the way any captivating drama might keep you interested - as opposed to a terrifying cant-take-my-eyes-off-the-screen sort of film. So don't be let down, by what you get from this film. I personally was interested in finding out how the story was going to end, and what was really going on in the school. The plot works well until the end since there are elements of the story withheld from the viewer and even if you think you have figured out a twist, there is more story to it than just what you think. It is difficult to tell how much is actually kept from us, mostly because the story flows so well, but there is a final surprise that brings the rest of the story we didn't realise was missing, together and it works so nicely. It wasn't all perfect though, I thought there were some problems with the film, like when at some point during the middle of the film, some screen seems interrupted with strange, needless fillers, which just felt really unnecessary in terms of the flow of the story and I might have a been a bit more forgiving if they were actually scary ghost scenes, but I don't remember them being that at all. The other problem with the pacing of the film was, as the twist at the end is shown, it seems that all of the important details of the story are then compressed into just some few last scenes.
* Theme: Thematically, it is as though "The Awakening" is not very interested in incorporating too many ideas from horror films, to keep up the scares, even if these might have been effective in some ways. But instead we get a tense and mysterious atmosphere and mood of an English countryside, which instead builds up of a eerie tone. There were moments during the middle of the film when I almost forgot that it was a ghost story and the idea was that there were "ghosts" lurking in the corridors mostly because of the vagueness of what was around and so we are never really prepared to be frightened anyway. There is some romance through, along with creepy uncertainties of the unknown roaming around in the surroundings of the school, and I was constantly wondering what the deal was with the dark woods. Other types of thematic ideas that go with the plot and dialogue includes things like the bullying that Florence notices between the children the moment she steps into the boarding school, the cruel teaching method or disciplining of the students, the talk of death and survival (Malleroy survived the war as a solider), loneliness, wickedness, devotion and its effects on the characters,
* The ghost / horror: Even though we get appearances of ghosts during some scenes, their appearances are sudden, fairly scary and very few, I think we pick up on where the film is coming from in terms of the end product, and as much as this kind of film will really just attract people who like the usual ghost or supernatural film, it could actually please a wider range of audiences; so when I got hold of a copy of the DVD, I did want a horror film to scare and this one didn't fit the bill - neither did it disappoint very much either. It's almost like a different entity of film and an altered kind of horror. It is disturbing in some small parts - I mean, if I had to point out one of the most weirdly disturbing scenes, it has to be the one with the dolls house and the strange things Florence sees as she peeks into the house - that was extremely creepy, but that was just down to the unexplained notion of it - it was not scary as such. So although it's not a frightening film, there was a chilling vibe to it and it is really interesting I thought, how a film set in the past can add so much to the tone and with sinister feel.
* Visual / special effects: CGI is used for the appearances of the ghost in the film but other than that its almost kept to a minimal. Visually the film looks very gritty and the tones of the film are grey, almost blueish, which really just goes to emphasise that dull moody weather. My favourite scenic parts of the film has to be the lake and the eerie woods which both looked charming. This film has all the settings and the tone of a period drama film and the location looks striking, but nothing new for a film like this. Even though it is the gorgeous landscape and the surroundings that make the film look quite elegant, it is also got to do with the photography, the direction and camera angling etc, like that of the rooms in the school/house and the tracking of what might have been spirits in the house, the placement of the equipment and how we see it move, the lake, the scenes in the woods - all of these just really help get you into the centre of the story.
* Audio: The sounds are the standard sort of thing you'd usually expect from a period drama really with lot of areas of silence just as something is about to happen and as something does builds up to horror, the sound almost develops by chill inducing, menacing chords and violins, enough to send a shiver down your spine, and even if the scare or surprise at the end of it did not live up to your expectation, you may have already been spooked by the awesome chilling sounds. Overall I think there is enough effort here to boost the fear up for the viewer, and just exaggerate any visual chill effectively. Other sorts of sounds like the sound effects of movement around the setting, the creaky floorboard and doors, the echoey sounds within the rooms of the boarding school all just help with the isolated feel of the location and also bring us further into the setting of the film, which is great and only just contributes, not really to the believability of the story, but for entertainment value.
* The ending: The truth is, if it was not for the "shock" in the end I don't think, for me, the film would have been worth watching; but then again, I like all kinds of twists and turns at end of films whether they are completely mind-blowing or even just plain, mediocre and predictable. And even if you could work out the twist in this film, which I think you definitely will, I doubt you would be able to work out the rest of that story that goes with it, until you actually get to the end of the film, making the ultimate part of the surprise a little bit more original. The main part of the twist however will instantly remind you of another classic film that everyone has seen, and since it is so obvious I did at some point refuse to believe it would be the exact copy of that one! But having said that, I was still a little bit disappointed with the end altogether. This could have quite easily been a fantastic film, had the pace been friendlier, and slowed down slightly. I mean this is not a Saw movie! - And to be honest the gathering together the pieces at the end felt even quicker than the Saw films, but then that goes with the style of that film; it doesn't quite work with "The Awakening". This also meant that the ending could not fully be appreciated.
The Awakening is actually a film that I would re-watch just to put the pieces of the twist together and see what I missed out the first time around, but I do think that even if I give it another go, the ending of the film will always be one that will just frustrates the hell out of me. On the whole though, most other things about the film were generally enjoyable and I think this is the kind of film which the viewer might be able to really enjoy most other things - it is stylish and tasteful, not gory or overdramatic in any way, the scares are subtle and nicely placed through the film, the story is attention-grabbing and original, the cast are convincing and even though they don't always characteristically look as though they belong in the early 1900's era of time, somehow we are easily able to overlook that (even though maybe the character styling should have been kept to that of the manners and fashions of that era).
On the whole though as a final note, this film is probably the type that some viewers would appreciate as a change from the usual horror films we like to watch and other viewers will think the film is pointless and hate it. Either way, I think "The Awakening" is not a bad classic psychological-type of horror film worth giving a go, especially now that it is on DVD. I may have chosen to watch it in the cinema but I didn't and perhaps that was good thing because I might have lost interest in the cinema and also because I imagine I enjoyed it more since I didn't have to pay the price of a central London cinema ticket to watch it.
Summary: Must watch movie, but dont expect too many scares