The Awakening

Read on to find out if you should let this period chiller haunt your home cinema...

The year is 1919 and in a country wracked by past-war grief Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) makes a living exposing fraudulent spiritualists. An invitation from a desperate teacher (Dominic West) takes her to an isolated boarding school to debunk stories of a ghostly boy that is said to have caused the death of one of the students. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.

While it’s far from perfect (the final twist is both obvious and contrived), this handsomely mounted period chiller is a fine companion to the likes of The Innocents and The Others. Nick Murphy’s assured direction leads to some very effective scares and he draws wonderful performances from the two leads. Recommended.

Picture: The Awakening comes to Blu-ray with a cold AVC 2.40:1 1080p encode that undoubtedly does an excellent job of replicating the intended look of the film. Indeed, director Nick Murphy claims this ‘misrepresented and desaturated’ approach to colour throughout the film was key to creating a sense that post-war Britain was itself sick. When added to the film’s impenetrable shadows and use of heavy grain, the net result is a particularly evocative and atmospheric picture that serves the ghostly material extremely well.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: While The Awakening is quite old-fashioned in terms of its approach to the genre, the sound design is anything but. Knowing exactly when to restrain itself and when to unleash something more dynamic, the lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix builds tension and unsettles the viewer – much more so than the unimaginative digital FX employed for shock effect on a couple of occasions.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: Writer/director Nick Murphy gets the ball rolling with a talkative audio commentary. This is followed by a 35-min Behind the Scenes documentary, featuring interviews with Murphy and actors Rebecca Holland, Dominic West  and Imelda Staunton.

The same faces pop up alongside Juliette Nicholson (author of The Great Silence) and Alan Murdie (chairman of The Ghost Club) in two further featurettes, the 24-min A Time for Ghosts and 16-min Anatomy of a Scream. The first looks at the UK’s damaged psyche and the growth of spiritualism following World War I, while the second gives the participants the chance to air their own beliefs about the supernatural.

Anatomy of a Scene: Florence and the Lake is a 15-min look at the making of a key sequence. There’s also a six-min Q&A with Murphy and Holland, a further 19-min interview with the director, a 27-min reel of seven deleted scenes with lengthy intros from Murphy, and the trailer. The Double Play release also includes a DVD of the film.
Extras rating: 4/5

We say: A handsome high-definition package for a classy supernatural chiller

StudioCanal, Region B BD/R2 DVD, £23 Approx, On sale March 26