#31in31 2018: “The Awakening”

“Without science people don’t believe in nothing, they believe in everything.”

Story: It’s just after WWI, and a woman who has a painful past tries to cope by exposing “paranormal” frauds. Then she’s asked to help figure out mysterious goings-on at a boys school in the middle of nowhere. I’m sure things will be explained scientifically. What was THAT?

Scares: Lots of chills, and even a few shocks.

Splat factor: Low. This is a slow burn ghost story.

Closing scene “shocker”?: Well…not really? Let’s call it a reveal.

Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: Original.

Trick or Treat?: HOLY CRAP IT’S PEMBERLY. Fans of the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice (because that’s how it should be known) will immediately recognize the “school” as the place Mr. Darcy took an impromptu swim. The story filmed here has a few surprises up its sleeve as well.

Nick Murphy combines touches of The Sixth Sense, The Changeling, The Woman in Black, and of course a slew of BBC period dramas (PEMBERLY) into a story whose slow boil manages to stay interesting throughout.

As naysayer Florence, Rebecca Hall (The Prestige) is perfect; full of scientific righteous indignation at the thought of charlatans, but her hard shell protects a hope for something Other. Hall juggles these moods expertly. It doesn’t hurt that she’s got Dominic West from The Wire as her costar. Both master the subtleties of their characters seemingly effortlessly. These are the sorts of actors that make people think “I could do that.” No. No you couldn’t. They’re just making it look easy.

They’re not the only two performers you’ll recognize. Imelda Staunton (Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter) plays the school’s headmistress/substitute mom Maude, a woman who may be a little too protective of her charges. And Isaac Hempstead Wright (aka Bran Stark in GoT) plays Tom, a young boy caught in between the goings-on.

Fascinating story, though the subplot about the gardener feels unannounced and out of place. Boom, tada! Nope, not for me. Still, the film as a whole makes up for that misstep by giving viewers a whole lot of mystery and some really nice chills.

Score: 4 out of 5 pumpkins

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