"“Despite the strong performances from the cast, it can’t make up for a film that is severely lacking in its storyline…”"

As the 55th Annual London Film Festival prepares for its grand opening, there seems to be somewhat of a shortage of horror films on this year’s bill, perhaps an indictment into the current state of the genre.

Horror films have taken on a different guise in recent years, focusing as much on gore and teenage angst than ever before. The majority of horror films these days are either filmed from the first person, through the use of a handheld camera, or set in an American college, following a group of rebellious youths. Or both.

Therefore it has become somewhat of a rarity for a meticulous, thought-provoking horror to be released, and the Awakening is just that.

The film is set in England in the wake of World War One, following writer Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall), who specialises in exposing hoaxes to those who believe in ghosts. As a firm disbeliever of the supernatural, she is convinced by teacher Robert Mallory (Dominic West) to unearth the truth at a boarding school that boasts the sighting of a ghost child, predominantly to ease the minds of the pupils. Although, as expected, it doesn’t all go particularly to plan for Florence, who may just have to rethink her initial stance on the matter.

With a strong British cast, most of whom have made the transition to Hollywood very successfully; it feels almost like a back to the roots job for Hall and West, both of whom impress in what is otherwise a quite monotonous feature. Imelda Staunton, who plays Maud, a maid at the school, also impresses, but it seemed that despite the strong performances from the cast, it can’t make up for a film that is severely lacking in its storyline.

The problem with the film is that it’s all building up to a big climax, as it becomes apparent that a big revelation is to be revealed. The film makes little sense for a long while, as it’s full of loose ends, seemingly building towards its finale. However, despite unremittingly building up towards the closing stages, the ending is poorly done, and too bewildering. The story therefore becomes inane, as the conclusion feels too contrived.

Due to the big revelation being meagrely done, it almost undid all of the films good work, as what it had worked up to just wasn’t remarkable enough as expected, and left me feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied. It needed to be more simplistic, as it gives off the impression that the filmmakers came up with the intricate ending first, and then worried about the logistics later.

The film bears many similarities to the 2001 film The Others, except despite its conspicuous resemblances, quite simply isn’t as good. The Others was also a film that existed much for its ending, yet it concluded magnificently, being clear and simple, and thrilling in the meantime, something director Nick Murphy struggled to achieve.

Another aggravation proved to be the superfluous romance between Florence and Robert. The romance, strengthening throughout, was pointless and unnecessary. It just wasn’t that type of film and the romantic story came across as forced, proving to be yet another film where two characters must fall in love, regardless of the sentiment to the film.

Don’t get me wrong, the film was chilling in parts and at certain points had me hiding my face in my hands, helped along by high-quality performances from the leading cast, but overall the feature was all too contrived and perplexing, not to mention its somewhat questionable 1920’s setting.

So yes, it may be one of few horror films at this year’s film festival, but nevertheless and rather regrettably, it doesn’t make the Awakening any more worth going to see.