Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Awakening (2011) - 8 stars out of 10

The Awakening (2011) - 8 stars out of 10

“The Awakening” is psychological horror at its finest.  All of the acting is beyond the expectation of a scary movie.  The film is terrifying but the quality of the acting and completeness of the story make it feel more like a drama with supernatural content a la "Signs" and "Let Me In."  You don't walk away from the film having nightmares because there is so much more to the story than ghosts.  The Post-WWI setting is unique for a horror film and the camera filter makes the entire film feel like you are watching an old, sepia photograph.  Its atmospheric cinematography elevates it into a horror film for a more sophisticated movie audience.  If I had to compare it to other films, I would say that it is like “The Sixth Sense” with more jump scares and an overall scarier tone.  These help to blur the line between horror and drama as it incorporates the best elements from both.  I wouldn’t put its quality on the same level as “The Sixth Sense,” which managed six Oscar nominations and changed the horror film industry forever with its mind-bending conclusion, but that is mainly because it will be a long time until any horror film reaches that level again.  The movie continually toys with you, building suspenseful music and following it by silence, but deciding at random whether there will be a jump scare or nothing at all.  And then amidst quiet, innocent music, a face bursts through a pillow and scares the crap out of you.  The film uses suspense so well that you spend the majority of the film filled with dread and a pounding heart as the next scare lies around the corner.  And that dollhouse scene!!!  The dramatic musical score enhances every moment.  A lot of the scares come from what our imagination.  The less that we see, the scarier the moment.  And it keeps you on edge the entire time because you start seeing images out of the corner of your eye every time that you gaze away from the screen.  Aside from a few moments of brief sexual content, the film is very clean and something that parents can feel comfortable watching with their teenagers to make sure that they don't get too scared.  The acting is great with Rebecca Hall in the lead role and Harry Potter fans will love seeing Dolores Umbridge in a less pink role.  Imelda Staunton puts on a great performance, particularly towards the end.  I love the utilization of the terrifying technique of unexplained people appearing in the background of photographs.  The story is amazing and this imagery sticks with you the entire film.  Just when you think that the twist is good, it becomes great, and then incredible.  And then the ending makes the film magnificent.  All of the clues are there but the pieces don't fall into place until the very end.  “The Awakening” is a very underrated film whose story will keep you guessing until the very end (…which then forces you to continue guessing).

[Pictured: I will never look into a dollhouse again]

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