Sunday, July 15, 2012

PREPARED TO BE...CONFUSED?

COMING SOON:
THE AWAKENING
Due in theatres August 10th, 2012 limited release

I am back again this time with a COMING SOON review.  This time it is on a ghost story of sorts and was put out by BBC Films.  The movie in question is called "The Awakening".  A movie that tries to knock it out of the park but just quite doesn't swing for the fences.

The story takes place in 1921 England and the country is still getting over their grief after the war.  Florence Cathcart is a lady who's job it is to debunk theories of ghosts and seances that take place around England.  She is a known author and is thought by the community to be one of the smartest people in England.  Enter a local boarding school which seems to be haunted by a boy's spirit and Florence is called in to try and see if this is an actual haunting or if it is more of a human prank.  After she thinks she has things figured out  and is ready to leave other things start to seem out of place so she decides to stay on and see where these things lead.

The movie is gorgeously shot and at the beginning is paced very well.  After the first act things seems to slowly unravel and what starts out to be a beginning to a scary ghost tale starts to turn into a muddled tale of romance and startling noises.  The premise is good but not the execution.  I found a lot of the scares, once you got into the movie were set-up so deliberately that you could kind of guess when something would jump out or when the shrill sound of strings were coming.   Which is too bad because I feel that it genuinely wants to be a good old fashioned ghost story.

The settings felt real, as if you were transported back to 1921 England and the feel of the movie really help set the mood. This was the first feature film directed by Nick Murphy, who is more noted for television series  such as Occupation and Primeval.  He does an adequate job directing this feature and making things feel real and sets up a sense of foreboding but to all his tricks it never really pays off.  Where he falls flat is in the second act of the film.  This is where the pacing gets turned on it's head and some things just don't add up.  What starts off as what looks to be an intelligent  take on the haunting genre ends up a mediocre mess.  Which leaves the end of the movie.  Now the movie gives a big twist at the end and it really jumped my interest of what was actually going on, but then the director kind of pulls back and leaves a very ambiguous ending.   If it had ended when I thought it was going to it would have been a great way to end the movie, especially with an ending that you won't see coming, but the director felt that it wasn't enough and kept on going.  The bad thing about this style of ambiguous ending is that it can literally go either way.  It's good to have a debate about an ending but one with no clear answer just lowers the feel of the picture.  He should have just left well enough alone.

The acting was solid with great performances by Dominic West as Robert and Rebecca Hall as Florence Cathcart.  They both played their characters well and were very believable though their romance in the movie could have been left on the cutting room floor, it didn't need to be there.  Rounding out the acting nods are Imelda Staunton(from Harry Potter) played the maid of the boarding school and Isaac Hempstead Wright from Game of Thrones fame played young Tom.  He did very well and showed a lot of emotion in the role.

Overall this ended up being a typical mediocre ghost story.  It could have been so much better if they left the romance out of it and didn't go as far as they did with the ending.  It's a good watch for atmosphere and the occasional jump scare but as a full blown horror/ghost story it falls rather flat.

I give this movie 3.5 stars out of 5.  A decent watch, but only for the settings.  If they pulled off the twist properly I would be more than happy to fully recommend this movie.  As it stands, it is what it is, a mediocre movie with a too ambiguous ending.  I'd wait for DVD or Netflix for this one.

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