CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS
Huzzah! It is a joy to find, finally, a genuinely creepy and effective British horror movie: one that's entirely in line with the traditional British ghost story, with a couple of unbearably suspenseful sequences and a handful of perfectly timed leap-in-the-air jump moments. And a impeccable setting, a strong and sympathetic female lead, a total absence of idiot nerd humour, a measured pace, full orchestral score - there's very very little in this movie to take issue with. Indeed, if there is a problem it's that post-Sixth Sense, even a moderately informed multiplex audience is constantly looking for The Big Plot Twist - whether he's really dead or she's actually a ghost or it's all a dream - and consequently over-analyzing the movie rather than just sitting back and watching it. This really isn't necessary as The Awakening is quite straightforward and admirably simple without being simplistic: a good solid haunting movie told economically and efficiently and with the minimum of fuss. And scary.
It's 1921 - significantly, not long after the First World War - and Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall), fresh from assisting the police in exposing fake mediums and charlatan spiritualists rather in the manner of The X-Files' Dana Scully, is hired (rather in the manner of Philip Marlowe) to investigate the alleged haunting a remote boarding school for boys after one of the pupils died. She's a sceptic and is ultimately more interested in unmasking the prankster than discovering a real ghost - but there's clearly something in that house that shouldn't be there. What incident occurred there before the house even became a school?
The grim, humourless school is as far from Hogwarts as you can get; it's a cold, bleak, unsunny place shrouded in mist and, once the kids are off the premises (for the half-term break), it's a great spooky location. Perhaps the Big Plot Twist is a shade unlikely, and turning the school groundsman/handyman into a grunting maniac really isn't necessary, but the pluses significantly outweigh the few minuses. In the same vein as The Others, it's a solidly creepy and occasionally very scary movie, and well worth seeing. Alone.