THE AWAKENING (eOne, 2011) D: Nick Murphy, w/ Rebecca Hall, Dominic West. Rating: NNN; Blu-ray package: NN Rating: NNN
A character-driven story gives depth, strangeness and a couple of good surprises to The Awakening's haunted-house chills.
In 1921 England, young modern Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) makes a career of exposing fake hauntings. She accepts an invitation to a boys' boarding school where one child has died, others have seen a ghost and all are terrified.
There's more to Florence's adamant rationalism than love of science. The work takes a growing toll on her, and she's keeping a secret. So is Robert Mallory (Dominic West), the teacher who brought her in.
Hall is comic and crisp as a scientific ghostbuster and believably disturbing as her anguish grows. West, Imelda Staunton as the imperturbable housekeeper and Isaac Hempstead Wright as the designated next victim all turn in strong performances.
Director Nick Murphy avoids the usual gothic excesses and concocts an effectively bleak atmosphere with de-saturated colours, empty space and gliding camera. He talks about his methods in the informative but brief extras.
EXTRAS: Cast and crew interviews. English, French audio. English subtitles.