The Awakening (15)

Starring: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West

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The Independent Culture

Rebecca Hall looks very fetching as Florence Cathcart, a professional debunker of seances and spiritualism in a post-Great War England steeped in mourning for its lost sons and husbands.

When a war veteran (Dominic West) asks her to investigate a supposed haunting at his Cumbrian boarding school, Florence duly arrives with her ghost-busting equipment and a watchful eye for hoaxes. Soon, however, she is obliged to question her own scepticism when the school – once a house with an unhappy history – turns out to have an occupant unaccounted for in the registers.

The director Nick Murphy oversees a production that looks first-class, but relies overmuch on the standard tropes of sudden looming faces and look-behind-you ambushes. Plotwise, it recalls the perceptual tricks of The Shining and The Others, without making any advance on either. Hall and West look convincingly spooked, but their efforts can't lift this from the league of second-hand hokum.

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