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Frustratingly close to something great but not quite there
on January 20, 2013
The Awakening has all the trappings of a classical ghost story and starts strongly off the mark, mixing the post-Victorian fascination with seances, the massacre of World War I and the oddly placed skeptical brilliance of an educated lady who debunks the nonsense. Twenty minutes in, I was expecting a tightly plotted masterpiece that would keep me guessing and finally reveal some grand view from the jigsaw of clues. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.
The movie is shot beautifully and the director trades cheap scares for a long brooding eeriness that permeates the look and feel of everything. There are even moments of horror genius involving a doll's house that will make your skin crawl. There are so many good elements that make it feel like The Shining meets the Woman in Black.
But then there are so many scenes that go nowhere, clues that mean nothing and a rushed (and ambiguous) conclusion that doesn't ring true. I must have counted a half dozen red herrings that add nothing to the plot and have no payoff whatsoever. And once you know the big secret of the film, playing it backwards doesn't make much sense either.
This is brilliantly acted, especially by Rebecca Hall who practically carries the movie, and the direction is perfectly creepy. The script on the other hand needed more polish - it could have been a indie horror film classic but instead leaves the viewer frustrated.