As a stern debunker of supernatural occurences opportunistically whipped up in an England still reeling from the deaths of millions during the Great War and Spanish flu epidemic, Florence Cathcart (Hall) literally wears the trousers.
We first meet her indignantly turning over a gang of charlatans who have conned a grieving mother they can contact her son with a bit of superstitious trickery. However, there is an emotional cost to Florence, who is personally mourning her missing fiance.
So the last job she wants is a request from sceptical schoolmaster Robert Mallory (West) to head north and investigate strange goings-on at a dour boarding school set in the damp valleys of the Lake District.
Initially, she's got no truck with claims that the figure of a ghostly boy - said to have been murdered when the school was a family home - is haunting the corridors with even his horrifically skewed face appearing on the school photos.
However, after the boys head off for autumn break, Florence is stuck there with Mallory - who's haunted by his own demons from the trenches - the kindly matron Maud (Staunton) and a young boy (Hempstead-Wright) whose parents can't look after him during the holidays. And then it starts.
Director Nick Murphy - working from a script co-written with writer Stephen Volk, the man behind the BBC's impressive Ghostwatch - opts for the style of the traditional English chiller, specifically The Innocents and The Others.
An unsettling atmosphere of dread is created with much flitting of shadows, an extremely creepy dolls' house and the random setting off of Florence's debunking equipment before events turn distinctly more disturbing with the frequent appearances of a little boy with a terribly warped face.
Unfortunately, the climax is compromised by a botched attempt to tie up all the loose ends - a pat ending is the last thing you want in a supernatural movie. It doesn't have to make sense. In fact, it's scarier if it doesn't.
Still, there's enough happening in The Awakening to keep you awake.