The Awakening – The early ghost hunting adventures of Florence Cathcart

image This is an interesting period piece set in 1921 that showcases some early ghost hunting tools as Florence Cathcart works to investigate some mysterious happenings at a boarding school where a phantom boy is said to have been seen and shows up in the school pictures.

Florence is a debunker of the paranormal. We first find her at a séance where she quickly calls fraud on the entire proceedings showing how the ghostly faces appear, how the table shakes and how so many people are in on the game. Quickly, the Spiritualists are rounded up and carted away. Florence has gained quite a reputation for herself and is soon asked to investigate and debunk the claims of a ghostly boy who keeps appearing in the school photographs and has the boys who live there quite scared.

Approaching the matter with her usual skepticism, Florence sets up her early detection equipment and feels quite certain she will catch the boy who is playing this trick. It’s quite interesting and entertaining to see the early EMF detectors, motion sensors and camera hooked to wires so they trigger when someone passes in front of them. And soon, Florence has a young boy in her grasp. But there appears to be more to this place.

There is doll house replicate of the school and inside are little characters that act out the events that Florence has just done. It shows her setting up the cameras, different people in proper rooms and generally retells the story we just witnessed. But Florence already found the boy who played the tricks so what is this? Is there really something going on or is there another accomplice? Is it one of the boys or one of the many staff that seems to have an elusive past and ulterior motives?

I found this to be a very atmospheric movie that does a lot with only a little. There are no wild special effects, or wild scenes of gore, or blood soaked monsters running at the camera. Instead, The Awakening instills a sense of foreboding by mysterious footsteps, giggles, figures that are always just out of reach so we can’t tell who they really are, characters that say one thing then do another and plenty of misdirection. And it keeps building all the way through. Even when the prankster is found, events keep happening. The more Florence seems to deny and debunk the events the more frequent and ghostly they become.

For those who liked The Others like I did, this is a fun movie. It has depth and scope. It makes you think and wonder. It shows that you can make a fun and atmospheric movie without going over the top with special effects and gore. There are lots of twists and turns in this one and the plot keeps getting deeper as we go along. When we get to the end we don’t just learn about what’s been making all the noises, we learn about several of the characters, how they’re connected and how Florence is related to it all. It’s an ending that fits very well with the story, one that doesn’t feel cheap or contrived.

This is a very fun weekend movie to watch with the lights off and this is the perfect time of year for it.

The Awakening (2012)

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The Possession

image The story of this movie intrigued me and then I discovered this was based on a true story. A true story with plenty of embellishment I’m sure. But within a couple of minutes I knew where I heard this story before.

A young girl buys an antique box at a yard sale, unaware that inside the collectible lives a malicious ancient spirit. The girl’s father teams with his ex-wife to find a way to end the curse upon their child.

This very tale was documented as one of the episodes of the Haunted History series. A man buys a wine box at an estate sale only to befall a wicked series of bad luck. He then tries to get rid of the box only to have everyone else fall under the same bad luck. Ultimately, one man goes to great length to seal the box and contain a powerful energy within.

So is the story of the "Dibbuk Box" which supposedly contains the trapped energy of an ancient evil. In the supposed true story, the spirit is brought forth using basically a Ouija board and what follows is the Holocaust. Polish sisters are able to contain the energy in a wine crate.

Such is the story of The Possession. After the death of his elderly mother, the son puts his things out for a yard sale. Among them is an unassuming box, almost like a jewelry box. A father, who’s recently been divorced and trying to make a comfortable home for his kids, buys the box and other items to furnish the house. They soon discover the box contains many mysteries and "Clyde" must turn to the Jewish community for help.

I found the original story to be so fascinating as to be unbelievable and wondered why no one had made a movie about the story. Turns out they did. And for the most part it’s not to bad. Things build slowly and over time Emily becomes obsessed with the box and the woman who lives inside. The woman talks to Emily, but soon the spirit wants to do more than just talk. Emily becomes distant and violent. Soon, Emily is just a pawn to the spirit as it tries to make it’s way into the world to who knows what end.

With several scenes that closely mimic the Exorcist, things get a little silly, such as Emily gnawing on raw steak out of the refrigerator. But other such as the hands roaming under the skin, moths wedged in the mouth and creepy scenes of eyes rolling around in the head it does make for some creepy fun. While it holds together well, there is nothing that gives the movie an overall tense feel. Unlike the spirit in the original story that may have brought on the Holocaust, there is no real sense of power of impending trouble with this story. It has some good elements and nothing goes too over the top, but it just becomes the usual, "oh, it’s a demonic spirit." To be cliche, what is the motivation? This is something we have seen and heard about dozens of times before.

That being said, there is nothing really wrong with this movie, it’s just the original story so wild and compelling that the movie retelling seems to fall a little short. It just lacks the drama of a box that is being passed from person to person that contains who knows what sort of evil.

Haunted History – A Deadly Possession – S01E05

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Sleepy Hollow – S01E01

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is one of my favorite stories and although it may come as a bit of a surprise, I think the Disney 1949 cartoon rendition is quite a wonderful telling of the story. Sadly, the Johnny Depp version quite the steamy pile and other renditions try to go to far with the horror and gore and lose the core of the story. Let’s not forget, it’s a mystery – what happened to Ichabod?

But here comes Fox with a new telling of this tale, and by the first episode, I think they may be on the right track. It appears Sleepy Hollow is bringing a lot of elements into the story, both from the story and from the surrounding time period. Ichabod isn’t a gangly school teacher scared of his own shadow. Far from it. He worked with George Washington on convert missions for the revolutionary war. Like some other stories (Once Upon a Time, Lost) this one is told both from the past and in the present.

We first find Ichabod on the battlefield and he may in fact be responsible for the Headless Horseman. Washington sent Ichabod to hunt him down. When engaged in battle, Ichabod delivers the fatal blow that takes off his head. But then, the world changes and Ichabod wakes up in present day Sleepy Hollow. The Headless Horseman is riding again and we learn there may be more to his story than a simple specter. He may in fact be Death himself.

We learn that Ichabod actually married Katrina, but that she was tried and killed for witchcraft. And speaking of witchcraft, we have Sheriff Corbin who sounds oh so similar to the Sheriff Corwin of Salem Witch Trial fame.

But that was all in the past, Ichabod is now in the present. Somehow, through the magical weavings of his wife Katrina, he has been slumbering and recovering from his wounds and has been awakened to once again fight the Hessian. According to the legend, Ichabod needs to keep the severed head away from the body or the Horseman will become even more powerful. We also hear tale of two witch covens, one good, one evil, working to suppress and control the Horseman.

A lot of pieces comes at us, but overall I think it blended together pretty nicely. We have modern Sleepy Hollow with Old School Ichabod looking for the Headless Horseman will dark forces try to stop their efforts. These dark forces are more than likely tied to witchcraft and I have no doubt the events of the Salem Witch Trials will come to light. There is a TON of material to work with here and it looks like the writers will delve into that subject at will to make the story more intriguing without going over the top on useless grisly details.

I like what I see and look forward to the next episode. There is a lot of pieces to this puzzle and while they might take some liberties, I think a lot of historical information is going to come to light and some interesting twists on the old theories will come along for the ride. This is another attempt at making Ichabod a "detective", but I think this time around they might have gotten it right.

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Whitechapel Season 3

The third season of Whitechapel and what I thought was the final season until a trailer for season 4 popped up, is broken down into 6 – two part episodes.

For the first episode, how is someone murdered in a locked room? With tinges of Edgar Allan Poe, this is quite an eerie storyline.

Second, body parts are showing up in the city and washing up on shore. Do we actually have a Murder Castle in the style of H. H. Holmes or is this a repeat of the Torso Murders?

For the finale, a dangerous patient and former Whitechapel resident escapes from a psychiatric unit around the same time that a babysitter is murdered. Is all the attention focused on the wrong suspect?

Ed, crime historian and Ripperologist joins the team, much to the distress of just about everyone, especially Miles. Tensions are still running high as Chandler and Miles argue over just about everything. Even Kent is arguing with the boss and feels the investigation is taking a wrong turn.

Inspired by a series of real life serial murders, this set is quite bit darker than the original two. Relationships are falling apart and the team is barely able to function together. Fights break out left and right and the horrors of the murder are taking their toll. Tensions are running high for this one.

Again, lots of good stories and acting. The focus is on the police and how they deal with the crimes and conduct their investigations. And for this set, they’re coming unglued. It all seems to be coming apart. Even if they do solve a cast, it’s up in the air as to whether or not they can work together. Team members have been bought off, others have been killed off. They’re all suspicious of each other and keep each other at a distance.

A really interesting season that leaves you guessing as to whether or not they’re coming back. And if they do, who’s had enough of this lifestyle…

Whitechapel – Season 3

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