Not to be confused with the classic Kate Chopin feminist novel, The Awakening is a 2011 film starring Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, and the mean lady in the pink suit from Harry Potter. The year is 1921 and England is still in mourning after the Great War. The main character is Florence Cathcart, an author, exposer of supernatural hoaxes, and general badass. She’s a celebrity with a tragic past. She was orphaned at an early age when her family was attacked by a lion in Africa, then she lost her fiance in the war. She does not believe in an afterlife. So it is with reluctance that she agrees to pack up all her neat ghost-exposing gadgets and visit a boarding school that is rumored to be haunted. The school was once a private house and locals are convinced a child was murdered there. The boys at the school are terrified by sightings of the ghost and one boy has died of fright. The staff wants her to prove to the boys that there is no ghost so that things will get back to normal at the school. Florence fearlessly sets traps to photograph the perpetrator, to track him by his footprints and to measure temperature fluctuations in the rooms. And of course, that’s when Florence starts to find “evidence” that she can’t explain.
I loved this. It wasn’t as sphincter-tightening as Sinister (which so far, is still the number one scare-giver this month for me), but boy was it atmospheric. The vast rooms, the silence, the way every footstep creaks the floorboards and echoes off the lofty ceilings make this setting creepy even before the sun goes down. And wow did I love Florence Cathcart. With her independence and bravery and gadgets. When Dominic West first comes to her door looking for help he’s holding a copy of her famous book and she assumes he’s there for an autograph. I watched a chunk of this from underneath the Afghan of Doom, because this delivered scares, suspense, and twists galore. You know a twist has to be coming and it still manages to surprise. It’s understated though–don’t rely on a bombastic soundtrack to tell you when to be scared and no gore to speak of. It’s more in the vein of The Woman in Black and The Others.
Side note: Think of your favorite scary movie. Mainly the haunted-house kind. Isn’t one of the most terrifying moments the face of a child in a dark hallway? Why does that get us every time? And why is it so frightening. Someone should make a master mix of ‘child in hallway’ shots.
So I had to go back and watch this movie a second time the day after as I just wasn’t able to stay awake in this one either, but I place the entirely on Allison waking me up early, my horrible sleeping habits, and the horror of watching my 49ers being dismantled by Peyton Manning. Being Seattle Niners Faithful isn’t easy sometimes. I did see MOST of the ending during my first watch with Christa, so the second watch let me watch a little more closely to try and see if the twists were hinted at the entire time and you just didn’t catch it, or twists just to twist the viewer. Man, this movie really is good, and it deserves a second watching just to see all the little things that make it so spectacular. No real gore, but a healthy dose of suspense where you know something is coming soon, and you are tense from the anticipation of it. Add it to your list and I think you will enjoy it.