The last good horror film I saw in the cinema was “Paranormal Activity” and it just so happened to be my favourite film of the year (think of that what you will) however that means two years have gone by without me seeing a horror film I’ve enjoyed. So when I discovered that the BBC had funded and produced a horror film starring Rebecca Hall (The Prestige & Frost/Nixon) and Dominic West (The Wire) which was getting rave reviews I was genuinely excited. The film is about Florence Cathcart (Hall), a ghost hunter, who seeks to disprove the existence of ghosts because of her troubled past.
What made “Paranormal Activity” an excellent horror film was the ending. It was satisfying, everything came to a natural climax and conclusion and though (as some have argued) the horror which made up the film was unsuccessful, none can deny that at least the ending was scary. And what do you walk out of a film remembering? In “The Awakening”, the same happens except this time we are left with a bitter taste of disappointment and the irritating idea that we were scared initially but left with none of that horror to think or have nightmares about. The bulk of the film concerns itself with a ghostly boy scaring the residents in a very similar way to “Paranormal Activity” (i.e slowly escalating “bumps in the night”) which is largely successful, the unexplained phenomena proves wonderfully frightening and causes your heart to leap and sink frequently.
The performances are, in general, a very high quality; Rebecca Hall finally has a leading role in which she can really show off her talents. It is clear that Florence Cathcart is a character with inner demons and Hall plays this just right. She never over does it, but manages to slot in the exact amount of melodrama necessary. Dominic West, known mainly for his TV appearance in The Wire and bit parts in Chicago and 300, is back to his native accent as an teacher with injuries stemming from the great war. All the supporting roles are played to a good standard, but the problem doesn’t lie in the acting, it is in the writing.
I’d like to think of myself as fairly good at following the stories of films (I pretty much understood the Saw films…) but here the narrative is so full of ambiguity and plot-holes it makes it very difficult to follow towards the end. At one point, halfway through, we are given an explanation for a death which appears to finish the story. Obviously it doesn’t finish here but instead continues and basically rewrites this logical conclusion and brings about more questions to answer, it is very frustrating! The “big reveal” at the end is ridiculous, it isn’t logical and nor is it a particularly satisfying explanation for the goings-on. In short the filmmakers royally screwed up the end of what had been a pretty successful horror film; there is no worse crime than taking any fear you may have had away from the audience.
I’m still waiting for another good horror to arrive in the cinemas…