Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Awakening (insert 'will put you to sleep' pun)

I thought I had missed the boat with this, but since it is about to make its US theatrical debut, I can make a few timely words about Brit horror, The Awakening.

Set in the early 20th century, the film follows sceptic Florence Cathcartas as she proves seances are baloney, and that ghosts are nonsense. She is then asked to come to investigate the death of a student in an isolated boarding school, which appears to have happened under supernatural circumstances. The film plays on elements of whodunit, giving way to the possibility that Florence, in her scientific ways, may be wrong and the supernatural may, in fact, exist.

Sound familiar? It should do. Let's acknowledge the elephant in the room, because it is a very done plot that has never been executed better than in Robert Wise's The Haunting and the more recent 1408 (which is dramatically underrated). So originality is not in this films favour, and you can pretty much guess where it is going from the moment Florence heads to the school. And it must be said, the journey is about as predictable as the destination. 

The Awakening has a great vibe of the classic Hammer horror, and is one of the more successful suspense films I have seen recently, but the film peaks early with a tension-filled sequence involving a chase and a dolls house and there isn't enough here to make it rise above the (poor) spate of competing genre films. It also has a rather tight kinship with Harry Potter and The Woman In Black, owing to similar subject matter in a short time period. 

I've seen a lot written about it being a return to form for British horror, but really, this is nonsense. In our technologically driven, hand held, zombie world, it is refreshing to have a throwback to a more classic period, but this is no excuse for simply retelling the same old tired story. This film is almost immediately doomed to fall into the netherworld of horror, not necessarily forgotten, but not necessarily remembered, even though it's not that bad. It is just more of the same.

Woo! Shorts!

It is a solidly built film and will pass the time happily, especially for those who like their Hammer or a load of chills, but once it is over, you will struggle to remember the name of the film. Instead, you will be saying 'no, not that one. The other skeptic hunts ghosts film. No, the OTHER one'.

If there's nothing else on, you could go worse, but otherwise, just wait for it to come on TV.

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