Monotony should never be used to describe a horror film, yet The Awakening achieves a high level of monotonous storylines and plots. This is a film that can’t be described to a high extent without giving away spoilers, but the ending of this film is similar to about a billion other movies churning out in our local theaters. The problem being, they execute the ending poorly due to the massive rift between the possible and impossible. Twist endings can be great, but how great can they be when nothing in the film adds up or provides any evidence to support the resulting twist?
The film is set in post World War I England and follows Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall), an author who debunks supernatural hoaxes. When she is asked to investigate a boarding school, she begins to seriously deteriorate in the face of pressure. This movie is as much about a ghost as it is about the temperament of the mind and just how fragile our psyche can be. Mind warps and melts are normal in the horror genre, but it should not be used as an excuse to create any plot tangents you want without them being somewhat relevant or believable.
Endings are so important in the horror genre. It is the bow that tops the Christmas box and without a fitting bow, the whole present just isn’t as pleasing. This movie is a perfect example of a decent box with a shitty bow. Of course, other people may find the ending incredible. This film does have a cliffhanger, which many will find either exciting or annoying, but the major point I am trying to create is that these types of endings are dead in the water and of all the movies that have this kind of ending, this one was the least believable. The rest of the movie is high class, meaning that it's clear the producers were trying to make a box office horror film, rather than a more gritty independent film. Being British, the philosophy behind the story is also a bit highbrow. I believe that Florence Cathcart, a brilliant writer who clearly is suffering from a level of guilt due to the loss of her husband, represents the powerful archetype of the widow. She debunks ghosts stories, yet she continually seeks them out hoping to one day maybe even find her husband. She is the exact same as the father in Casper, who continuously drags Christina Ricci around the country in order to investigate ghosts in hopes of finding his deceased wife.
This film also has a political edge. The end of World War I resulted in an epidemic on many fronts, the deaths of soldiers and citizens due to the Spanish flu. This film does a good job of transporting us to this time period and making the atmospere seem very believable. Still, with the impressive graphics, backdrop, and cast the film fails to deliver on the scare front. There were probably about three scenes that I thought were creepy and provided genuine scares, but the rest of the film consisted of commercial frights, i.e. things popping out of dark corners with a creepy face. True horror fans will see right through this film for what it really is, an attempt to bridge the gap between horror and mass appeal, which is a serious balancing act. Films like The Ring and Sinister come to mind, but this film doesn’t have enough scares to convince the horror community that it is worthy of praise.
Horror island is receiving a ghost that doesn’t have what it takes to make it. While it has all the style and pizazz most ghosts need, it just doesn’t have the intangibles to convince the rest of horror that it is anything more than a gimmick. We can only hope that horror island doesn’t succumb to the commercial horror that The Awakening promotes, no matter how much money it makes in the box office.
If you liked The Awakening, you might also like A Tale of Two Sisters and The Woman in Black.