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Awakening, The

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    Ian Jane
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  • Awakening, The



    Released by: Universal Pictures
    Released on: January 29, 2013.

    Director: Nick Murphy

    Cast: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Imelda Staunton

    Year: 2011

    Purchase From Amazon


    The Movie:


    The first feature directed by prolific television director, who co-wrote with Stephen Volk, 2011's The Awakening is set in the England of 1921 and introduces us to a woman named Florence Cathcart who has come to some notoriety for her ability to expose supernatural incidents as hoax. A man named Robert Mallory (Dominic West) tells her that a boarding school out in a remote part of the countryside would like her to come and look into a haunting on the premises that has started to have an effect on the boys who attend.


    When she arrives she learns that recently a student named Walter Portman has been killed, though the circumstances around his passing are foggy at best. With some help from Robert and the matron, Maud (Imelda Staunton), she begins investigating the supposed haunting in the building. Florence soon figures out the truth behind Walter's murder, but the strange activity in the building seems to cease. When the student body leaves for break, with only one student named Thomas (Isaac Hempstead Wright) left in the building, Florence prepares to head back to London but before she can do that circumstances arise in which she has to start questioning whether or not the haunting at the school is real after all…


    Deliberate in its pacing but hardly slow, The Awakening tells a fairly traditional ghost story but still manages to work a few interesting twists into its finish that help it to stand out a bit from the countless other haunted house movies that have been made over the years. While some will probably take issue with some of those twists, at least the filmmakers do try something a bit different before the end credits roll. As far as the visuals are concerned, it's hard to imagine anyone taking issue with what has been put on film here. While the movie makes use of a very flat color palette and leans towards dreary at times, the compositions are often strikingly beautiful and the cinematography on display here, courtesy of Eduard Grau, is consistently impressive.


    Performances are great across the board. Rebecca Hall is well cast as the skeptical investigator, she has a seriousness to her that suits her character and her distinct facial features make her interesting to look at. In their supporting roles both Dominic West and Imelda Staunton impress but the real surprise here is Isaac Hempstead Wright as Tom. It's all too easy for bad child actors to spoil a movie, particularly a horror movie where so much can often hinge on a child being in peril, but he plays the part perfectly and delivers nothing short of a completely convincing turn. Add to this the fact that the film is loaded with atmosphere and quite a bit of tension and that it makes excellent use of sound to help build mood and you wind up with a film that, if not quite perfect, is impressive enough that fans of classic ghost stories will want to give it a shot.


    Video/Audio/Extras:


    The Awakening arrives on Blu-ray in AVC encoded 1080p high definition widescreen framed at 2.35.1. Despite a few shots here and there that look unusually noisy for whatever reason, this is otherwise a very nice transfer. Keeping in mind that the movie makes use of a very subdued color palette and relies far more on grays and blacks than greens or reds, there isn't a whole lot of 'pop' here but detail is generally very strong as is texture. Skin tones look good, black levels are nice and strong though some minor crush can be spotted in a couple of scenes. There are no problems with compression artifacts otherwise, nor are there any issues with noise reduction or edge enhancement. A strong picture overall.


    The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, though optional subtitles are provided in English, English SDH and Spanish. Audio plays a very big part in the effectiveness of this movie so it's nice to report back that the lossless track on this disc is pretty much flawless. The rear channels are used throughout the movie but often with very clever subtlety - scurrying feet behind you, the hardwood floors of the old building creaking under the weight of Florence's footsteps or the cracking of a branch out in the woods. All of this helps to build atmosphere and tension in impressively immersive ways. Dialogue remains crisp and easy to understand throughout the movie while bass response is strong when the movie calls for it, anchoring the score nicely and offering a bit of punch to a few of the film's more intense moments. Universal have done a beautiful job with the audio here.


    The extras start off with just under a half an hour's worth of deleted scenes that play with introductions from director Nick Murphy, which offer some interesting insight into why these scenes were shot and also why they didn't wind up being used in the final version of the movie.

    There's some interesting alternate material in here that makes it worth checking out.


    Up next is a twenty five minute long featurette entitled A Time For Ghosts which gives some insight into some of the historical elements that played a part in this story, such as the spiritualism craze that was popular at the time the story is set. We also get some insight into why certain scenes were made the way they were and how the filmmakers strove for period accuracy. A thirty six minute Behind the Scenes featurette is a fairly standard mix of footage shot on set showing how a few key scenes were put together and the regular assortment of interesting cast and crew interviews. Complimenting this is an Extended Interview With Nick Murphy in which the director gets just under twenty minutes to talk about his experiences working on this project, what he likes about it, who did what and more. He comes across as a pretty likeable and interesting subject. The seventeen minute long Anatomy Of A Scream segment is another collection of cast and crew members talking about different experiences and what they do or do not believe in as far as ghosts and the supernatural is concerned.

    There's also a quick Anatomy Of A Scene feature here that shows how the 'Florence And The Lake' portion of the movie was put together and which gives some insight into the use of technology in this particular piece of the movie. The disc also includes pop-up menus (no main menu loads, but hit the menu button and it'll emerge from the side), chapter selection and a bookmarking option.


    The Final Word:


    Although it isn't breaking a whole lot of new ground, The Awakening is a beautifully made movie with loads of atmosphere and a string of very strong performances. Universal's Blu-ray release looks and sounds great and contains a decent enough selection of extra features - this is one worth checking out.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















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