THE AWAKENING (2011) opens with a séance and we all know that’s a good thing. Shortly we’re on some 1920’s era, cross country train trip and it’s clear we’re being taken to one of my favorite places on Earth…uptight lady who may be bonkers in an ominous mansion with super creepy kids-land! (See THE INNOCENTS, THE OTHERS, THE ORPHANAGE, HOUSE OF VOICES, FRAGILE, et al.) Let me be upfront and say this type of movie gets a ton of leeway with me. I just want to spend as much time inside it as possible and I’m fully prepared to tolerate it going through whatever well-worn motions it needs to in order to do so. Maybe these digs are nothing new but what’s a subgenre for anyway, unless to sign a secret agreement to deliver essentially what you expect? Yes, there are few surprises (I may not have known exactly the precise inevitable twist but I sure knew the ballpark) yet honestly, if it went on forever I wouldn’t have minded much as it satisfyingly establishes a complete and believable arena for the supernatural to roam.
Written by STEPHEN VOLK, the brains behind the legendary GHOSTWATCH, THE AWAKENING most fully earns it’s place at the ghost table by delivering some intriguingly robust characters in hard-nosed proto-Ghostbuster Florence Cathcart (REBECCA HALL) and her injured and enigmatic confidant/love interest Robert Malloy (DOMINIC WEST). If these two kooky kids had the mind to jump out of the movie and start an X-FILES type show, I would gladly pull up a chair each week. It’s certainly a shame that director NICK MURPHY didn’t better resist the urge to gild the lily with uninvited splashes of unnecessary CGI, but those few incidents weren’t so obtrusive as to tear the whole playhouse down. I’ll probably revisit and investigate this movie’s familiar yet absorbing halls more thoroughly in the future. For now, this is a great Netflix find for anyone who enjoys a more classic and refined approach to scares; it takes full advantage of its setting and what it lacks in innovation, it makes up for with the company you get to keep.