Movie Review: "The Awakening"
Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) is a paranormal skeptic. She has studied everything she can about the paranormal and has written a vastly successful book on her findings. She has searched far and wide to find proof of paranormal existence but her search has always lead to the discovery of natural explanations. Whether it be con artists or faulty inanimate objects, Florence has always been able to find an explanation for the "paranormal" occurrences.
One day, a man, named Robert Mallory (Dominic West), comes to meet her and explains that he works at an orphanage that is suffering from a paranormal haunting. Florence Cathcart explains that she has always found substantial proof that ghosts do not truly exist. Robert Mallory claims to have one that does.
The Pros & Cons
The Premise (+3pts)
The Reveal (-4pts)
The Mystery (+5pts)
The Clues (-3pts)
Rebecca Hall (+8pts)
The Romance (-2pts)
Pro: The Premise (+3pts)
I thought this was an interesting take on a paranormal film. We have, so often, seen movies that focus on characters who, initially, do not believe in the supernatural, but end up getting convinced pretty quickly. With this film, we get a main character who is actively trying to disprove the ghost's existence.
She is an expert in the field of disproving the existence of ghosts yet she is recruited by a man who is certain that the have a ghost that is real. Both characters are entirely certain of their viewpoint but one of them will have to be wrong. I very much enjoyed that the film focuses on the skeptic because it allows the audience to see the character, gradually, begin to doubt everything she believes. I liked the premise of this film because it is a paranormal film from the perspective of a reputable paranormal skeptic. It provided an interesting, entertaining, and unique vibe that I enjoyed.
Con: The Reveal (-4pts)
I really enjoyed the journey I went on with this film. The main character goes through a lot and goes through quite the transformation but I thought the film lost a ton of steam with the reveal. The film repeatedly flips back and forth on whether the entity is a ghost or a hoax but the reveal did not live up to the rising action. It felt very generic and felt like the filmmakers spent so much effort writing the rising action of the film, that they became lazy when it came to writing the ending.
Again, let me say that I enjoyed the rising action quite a bit. I was interested, and I was entertained, but the resolution was ridiculous. I do not want to spoilt it, but know that it felt like a lazy copy of endings from a few classic horror films (you will know which if you see the film). I thought this film had a unique premise but felt very generic by the end.
Pro: The Mystery (+5pts)
Due to the film's premise, it was able to focus on the mystery of whether or not the ghost really exists. With some scenes, the audience will be certain that the whole thing is a hoax. In other scenes, the audience will be certain that the ghost is very real. This film constantly flips back and forth (up to a certain point), and lets the audience join Florence as she tries to solve the mystery.
We follow Florence as she sets up various devices, traps, and contraptions, all set up to explain the strange things that are happening in the orphanage and catch the person responsible. She is extremely convinced that there is a person, and an explanation, behind the strange occurrences and I will say she is very convincing. Despite the things that the audience sees and hears, Florence's conviction and experience are able to make the audience doubt the legitimacy of the ghost. This was very essential, and made the mystery element very fun to watch and play along with.
Con: The Clues (-3pts)
So with the reveal comes the reveal of some clues as well. Basically our main character comes to the realization (as to whether or not it is a ghost or a hoax), and, when she figures it out, she gets a flashback to all the clues that could have led her to that discovery. Unfortunately, none of these "clues" felt significant at the time the audience sees it. The audience will see things, think "Oh, that's weird" then not think anything of it. Turns out Florence had history with these clues that the audience did not. This made the revelation flashback feel unjustified and out of place.
The problem is that, not only did the audience think the "clues" were insignificant, but Florence thought they were insignificant as well. These are "clues" that the film totally skips over (with no focus) yet Florence has real history with these things. With such a confident character that is so head strong in her beliefs, I have a hard time believing that this character would just forget "clues" that relate to her childhood.
Pro: Rebecca Hall (+8pts)
This film was almost entirely carried by Rebecca Hall. This actress is able to significantly improve any film that she is in. This film is no different. The film definitely has quite a bit of horror throughout, but Rebecca Hall's performance really brings out the suspense and intensity. There are so many shots of Rebecca Hall's face, as she wanders the halls at night and experiences strange occurrences.
This character starts out very skeptical and approaching everything from a scientific perspective. As the film progresses, she begins slowly doubting herself. The character goes through quite the philosophical transformation and Rebecca Hall portrayed this very naturally.
Con: The Romance (-2pts)
I really hated this element of the story. So the two main characters of this film are Florence and Robert. Florence is a reputable paranormal skeptic. Robert works in an orphanage that has a ghost (or so he believes). So Robert recruits Florence and the movie takes off.
This is all great so far, but the movie starts diving into a romance between Florence and Robert. It is an awkward romance and it feels very forced. I thought these characters worked best when they had a friendly, bantering, professional relationship. When the film forces a romance between these characters, it ends up making the film feel more generic.
Grade: B- (82pts)
The Awakening was a pretty enjoyable horror movie. It has a unique premise as it focuses on science, mystery, and the paranormal. It has a main character who is a very reputable paranormal skeptic. Florence Cathcart has made a career out of disproving the legitimacy of ghosts. I really liked how this character played out on screen. We have seen many films in which the characters doubt the existence of ghosts but we rarely see a film where the main character is so actively skeptical.
Rebecca Hall absolutely carries this film. So much of this film's entertainment comes from her portrayal of this character. The film can get pretty intense and captivating. I believe a lot of that is a result of the great performance by the lead actress. Unfortunately, the film does have a few problems.
While the rising action was very interesting, the reveal and the end of the film felt very anti-climactic. It felt very much like the filmmakers put all their effort into making the rising action great, but left no effort to secure a decent ending. Instead, they resorted to a generic ending that copies bits from other classic films. This movie also focuses on "the clues" that were supposedly hinting at the truth through the entire film. Unfortunately, these clues did not work. Florence has a history that involves these clues but they never feel significant.
This film has an interesting premise and great rising action but it falls apart in the end. Fortunately, the journey is entertaining and it is only the ending that has real problems. So this movie is not perfect, but it is a fairly entertaining horror movie. Just do not get too invested in the story because the ending was disappointing for me.