Director: Nick Murphy
Writers: Stephen Volk, Nick Murphy
Stars: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton
Motion Picture Rating: 15
Runtime: 107 minutes
I appreciate creepy ghost stories on film, such as The Orphanage and The Others, and this one garnered strong reviews in the UK on its theatrical release. It stars Rebecca Hall as a 1920’s ghost hunter called Florence Cathcart and it has the feel of a modestly budgeted English production throughout. That might explain the good reviews here, but certainly Hall is always worth catching up with – especially after her recent performances in fine films such as The Town and Everything Must Go.
In reverence to all good ghost stories the film is set in a single and remote location. The ghost hunter Cathcart is hired by a boys’ boarding school in North West England to investigate the possible presence of a ghost. The school is grey, cold and foreboding. Its young students are suitably timid and respectful of authority. However, it is clear that they are scared of something and that all is not quite right at the school.
The set-up, initially in London and then up to Cumbria, and the first hour of the film are interesting. Hall is well cast as the “educated woman” and is backed up nicely by Dominic West as a teacher and Imelda Staunton as the school matron. The setting, pacing and camera work are also good. The problem, and the disappointment, comes in the final third. The plot unravels and the final reveal is simply not convincing. The level of creepiness and the number of scares also fall away as the non-believing ghost hunter succumbs to her own paranoia. This is not as good as either The Orphanage or The Others, but it’s a reasonable effort.