Wednesday, 23 November 2011

REVIEW: The Awakening

The Fuck did I do?

People always think I'm joking when I say horror is my favorite genre, I think because of the lower than normal tolerance for enjoying 'bad' movies. It's not necessarily that I'm the guy who only likes the very best and tells everything else to go fuck itself, I've enjoyed some OK movies very much on their own terms, I think it's more that I don't enjoy 'badness' in and of itself, and I think that's mostly how the world views the horror genre, perhaps fairly given how 90% of its output is abysmal, but having said that the most electrifying movie experiences I've ever had tend to be watching a horror film where everything works, they're rare but when they come along there's nothing else like them.

Somewhat anti-climatically, The Awakening isn't that. But it is an enjoyable, mostly well-executed example of a solid Ghost story that has all the right pieces in their place. It won't blow your mind or anything, but it will take you on an effectively creepy ride without feeling too derisive or enslaved to cheap scares and shocks. It helps that it's built on a solid foundation of two great performances from Dominic West, but primarily Rebecca Hall, who is maybe one great role away from being the next Kate Winslet. Every performance she gives seems to improve on the last, and she played her early 20th century Dana Scully role well here, taking a potentially infuriating character and giving her enough dimension to not solely function as the plot-driven centre piece of the film. West too, who has a far from 100% strike rate at the movies of late, impressed me too.

I suppose my problems then mostly aim toward the script, which while impressive in it's attempts to form some genuine three dimensional characters, also fell into that twist upon twist upon twist thing modern horror films are wont to do, not to mention it pretty much gave in to the nonsensical in the final act and relying on previously unmentioned amnesia is always the sign of bad writing. But I enjoyed the first hour and the performances enough that I think I can forgive a mostly botched ending. The goal here is to scare people, not surprise them and if you sacrifice atmosphere and tone for the sake of a surprise then all you do is betray your own movie, and it was sad to see that happen here.

In every review of every British film I ever write I always seem to say that whatever it's faults, it's pleasing to see something with some ambition, and while this is essentially our version of a reigned in studio horror film, it's the kind of mainstream thing we don't nearly enough of, so to here this kind of thing in my accent is gratifying and for all it's cliches, is contextually refreshing. Such is the state of things.

Rating: 6/10

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