The Awakening Review


Nick Murphy’s debut feature film, The Awakening, contains all the ingredients for a successful horror, yet lacks the originality to make it a brilliant piece of cinema.

Set in the years following the First World War, Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) is a scientific rationalist who seeks to dispel disillusions of the macabre. The result of fraudsters who pry on the emotionally unstable that have lost loved one’s during the war, she dissolves the myths surrounding the supernatural by revealing the hoaxes for what they really are. However, when a school master (Dominic West) invites her to a boy’s Prep school following recent fears of a ghost that has been haunting the pupil’s, her preconceptions are tested to breaking point as unexplained events start to unfold.

For a debut piece, Murphy clearly has a good grasp on the fundamental necessities of the horror genre. Successfully creating suspense through a combination of sound, setting and impressive acting performances, he uses the imagination rather than the grotesque to deliver a sufficient amount of shock.

As Hall’s first lead role, she is excellent in the way she portrays a sceptical character who is herself plagued by repressed memories and emotional torment, while West provides a suitable male counterpart and inevitable love interest.

Despite this, whilst the film manages to tick all the right boxes, it fails to offer something ostensibly new. Many of the scenes resemble parts of the work of more prolific directors, both in style and content and there is a definite feeling that we have seen it all before. Films such as Alejandro Amenábar’s English language debut The Others and Guillermo del Toro’s El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone), feature many of the same ideas but manage to carry it off with considerably more success. Also, the twist in plot which arises in the closing moments seems somewhat contrived as there isn’t enough evidence given throughout the course of the film to justify the turn of events, thus leaving the viewer somewhat dubious about its conclusion.

As far as simple entertainment goes, this is a clear winner as it successfully blends horror and suspense, yet the hardened horror fan will inevitably leave feeling disappointed.

Taken from The Student, published online Sun Nov 20th 2011.

Tyrannosaur Review


Film is used as a medium to affect and entertain people in a multitude of ways. Away from the idealism of Hollywood, Paddy Considine’s directorial debut Tyrannosaur illustrates a gritty realism that captures the shocking reality of a fractured society.

Set in a rough, working-class area of Leeds, Joseph (Peter Mullan) is a monster of a man. Fuelled by violence as though it is an addiction, he is unable to restrain himself in situations when his temper gets the better of him. A convoluted mix of past regrets and lost dreams, he spends his life between the pub and the bookies, tormenting people along the way.

His life becomes intertwined with charity worker Hannah (Olivia Colman), whom he belittles for her cushy middle-class life and religious self-affirmation without knowing the truth of her situation. As it becomes clear that she is trapped in a relationship with an abusive husband (Eddie Marsan), an unconventional friendship forms between the two.

Tyrannosaur is a far cry from feel-good cinema. It takes a brutal look at a reality unseen by most of society. Mullan’s performance is terrific in the way he captures a man devoid of hope or purpose, who resorts to violence as a means of escapism, even though it ultimately adds little consolation. There is no disputing his chilling claim: “I’m not a nice human being.” Yet, what this film manages to do is create an empathy that shouldn’t be there. Glimpses of a softer side allow the viewer to believe that there is a nice man behind the mask; his clear affection for Hannah being evidence of this.

However, it is Colman’s performance that steals the show. Her combination of denial set against an inherent self-loathing in the face of her affliction, is incredibly powerful. As she turns to Joseph with no one else to help her: bruised, beaten and emotionally defeated, the result is undeniably moving.

Whilst Tyrannosaur is definitely not for the faint of heart, it is undoubtedly one of the most efficacious films released so far this year; you would be hard pressed to find a film more disturbing yet equally absorbing.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Oct 11th 2011.