Director: Phillip Guzman
Starring: Jocelin Donahue, Jesse Bradford & Lori Petty
Synopsis: A young woman must save herself and her friends from an ancient evil that stalks its victims through the real-life phenomenon sleep paralysis.
Rating: 15 Duration: 99 minutes Release date: 15 May (UK)
Dead Awake is a by the numbers horror film focusing on the terrifying ordeal known as sleep paralysis. Trashy and wooden, Dead Awake takes its premise to ridiculous lengths and introduces a The Ring type ghoul known as “the hag” who is haunting victims of sleep paralysis and leaving behind a string of deaths in her wake.
A quick Google search indicates there are not many films about sleep paralysis. The Nightmare – a documentary focusing on the condition is the most recent, while A Nightmare on Elm Street is the most popular film focusing on the idea of something coming for us while we sleep and only staying awake will defeat it. Dead Awake is like neither of those films and fails to be A) scary or B) interesting. The acting is not terrible, but the direction and storytelling are so wooden that the only thing that will worry audiences is at what point in the film will they nod off.
Despite having some pedigree with Final Destination and its sequel, writer Jeffrey Riddick has previous for films like Dead Awake. Writing classics such as 2008’s Day of the Dead remake and Return to the Cabin by the Lake, Riddick has crafted a film so familiar that only its premise is vaguely original. His characters are not interesting and the events they are caught up in are so dull and uninvolved that it becomes hard to care what happens to them. Likewise, the direction of Phillip Guzman brings little to alleviate matters above that of boredom.
Fortunately, the acting saves Dead Awake from being truly awful. Jocelin Donahue provides stable work as both Kate and Beth Bowman. Her work as twin sisters is efficient and lends the film a stable set of shoulders to rest upon. Jesse Bradford plays the ex boyfriend of Beth and is given relatively little to do, but manages to make something of a limited role. Lori Petty also shows up as a doctor unconvinced that a being known as “the hag” is haunting people in their sleep and resulting in their deaths. Petty is always worth watching and her quirky charm is a welcome addition to the otherwise dry events taking place around her.
The thing about Dead Awake is that it’s just OK. It’s a decent effort in the made for TV mould and with reasonable expectations you may enjoy it. But, there is nothing new here and it feels like everyone was on auto-pilot, with the final result proving that.