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Set in the early 1920’s shortly after World War I, Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) has made a career out of exposing supernatural hoax’s. She is invited to an English boarding school where a boy is reported to have been literally frightened to death, an occurrence attributed to the presence of the ghost of a boy killed there years before.

A ghost story set within a haunted house is nothing new, the inclusion of children, is also something we have seen before. With an opening scene set during as séances you may be expecting something akin to The Illusionist (2006) but as soon as the action relocates to the school we move into the more familiar territory of The Devil’s Backbone (2001) and The Orphanage (2007), that’s not to say the movie borrows from these recent classics, all three movies take the basic idea in there own direction. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep the audience guessing without confusing or alienating them.

The supporting cast includes Dominic West and Imelda Staunton, both of whom do well but the film hinges on Rebecca Hall who is virtually ever present on screen. She has impressed recently in The Town, Frost/Nixon and most notably Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but this is the first time I have seen her carry a movie, a job she does brilliantly. Writer director Nick Murphy does a great job in what is his first feature, creating tension and even more importantly making us care about the characters. He is aided by a perfect setting Manderston House in Scotland, also the location for the reality TV show The Edwardian Country House (known as Manor House in the USA), also directed by Murphy.

There probably aren’t enough scares for fans of modern horror but if like me you grew up on Hammer movies you will probably like the creepy atmospheric horror. And that is where this film will succeed or fail, living up to the expectations of the audience. With all the zombies, vampires and torture porn movies that have been filling the horror genre I welcome something different especially when it is this well made.

Four Stars out of Five

★★★★

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