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"The Awakening" works as a moody ghost story thanks to strong performances and a creepily brooding atmosphere.
In England just after World War I, Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) has a reputation as a professional debunker of the supernatural, busting seances for their parlor trickery. Then she meets Robert Mallory (Dominic West), who teaches at a remote boarding school where a boy recently died, apparently frightened to death by a ghost.
Florence sets up her tools and measuring devices, certain that it's a human hoaxster she's after. But strange things begin happening that have Florence second-guessing her skepticism and questioning her sanity.
Director Nick Murphy (co-writing with Stephen Volk) sets up a spooky haunted-house thriller with some smart twists that ratchet up the tension skillfully. The key, though, is Hall ("The Town," "Vicky Christina Barcelona"), who captures Florence's flinty intelligence and the vulnerability that emerges as she slowly discovers the school's dark secrets.
Opens Friday, Aug. 31, at the Cinemark 24 (Jordan Landing); rated R for some violence and sexuality/nudity; 107 minutes. For more movie reviews, visit nowsaltlake.com/movies.