OK, to be honest, I kind of loved it.
Based on arguably Bram Stoker’s second most famous novel, 1903’s The Jewel of Seven Stars, the movie casts Charlton Heston (Soylent Green) as Matthew Corbeck, just the kind of greedy, selfish archaeologist who unearths warnings of evil to be loosed upon the world, yet digs anyway.
As he does, his wife (Jill Townsend, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) goes into labor two months early. Their infant girl is born dead, then miraculously comes alive. That’s because baby Margaret is possessed by the soul of Cara, the murderous, incestuous Egyptian queen whose tomb he and partner Jane (Susannah York, Superman) dare enter.
Tragedy occurs at the dig site, but the real madness doesn’t hit until Margaret turns 18, whereupon she’s played by Stephanie Zimbalist (TV’s Remington Steele) and suddenly, inexplicably feels compelled to travel to England to see her father. Then, the film takes on a decidedly The Omen quality, as supernatural forces cause one “accident” after another.
Directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), The Awakening unfolds with a style and suspense that flourished in its era, but has vanished in today’s effects-driven spook shows. Substance overshadows Heston’s tendency to chew the fat. Those interested in Egyptology are recommended to seek it out, even if facts are far from its mind. Those interested in a more old-fashioned style of horror are recommended twice as strong. Like the antiquity gifted to Margaret therein, it’s something of a lost gem. —Rod Lott