You'd be forgiven for thinking that horror/thriller films all take place in the here and now and either in the US or Japan what with the slew of movies over the years...
Well writer/director Murphy making the step from small to big screen, has decided to go old school, literally!
Set in 1921, The Awakening tells of Hall's ghost debunker who wants to believe that there are such things as ghosts and the afterlife but instead comes across and exposes fraudsters out to prey upon the grieving. Starting off with a fake seance, Hall is quickly introduced as a no-nonsense, independent woman who hides a secret within her brash exterior.
Like The Orphanage and The Others, this is primarily a one woman show and a lot rests on the shoulders of its lead. Hall, who stood her ground up against Bale and Jackman in The Prestige, shows that she can move easily to centre stage and carry the weight of the film. She never lets it slip into the category of "damsel in distress" during her fall from certainty to near insanity as events unfold within the grounds of the creepy school.
As a chiller, there are some genuine jump-out-of-seat moments - the large dollhouse is an exceptional one - but the kettle is taken off of the boil far too many times during the running time. This means any tension that is built up is then thrown aside for, sometimes unnecessary, dialogue or red herrings. The nail biting atmosphere should be more continuously pushed towards the audience rather than letting them relax too many times. The beauty of the time setting means that reliable and bright torches aren't available and Hall has to rely on a genarator-run lightbulb to explore the things that go bump in the night and all those moments are then but a memory when the exploration stops and the exposition begins.
Overall, it's a solid haunted house tale that will have you tense yourself several times but will leave you feeling that there should have been more to make you feel more satisfied. It's over long epilogue means that you leave the cinema completely relieved of any nervous tension rather than the tingles from the films finale but it's still better than the modern gore-fests of late.
UK release date: 11.11.11