Despite being immediately comparable in style, theme and even location to chiller favourite ‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe’, Aussie creeper ‘Awoken’ might do just enough to stand on its own two feet, satiating fans of bump-in-the-dark horror, assuming expectations aren’t too high.
The plot follows a group of young and impressionable nurses working with patients suffering from sleep disorders. Following a hard-hitting opener involving child abuse and demonic possession, we follow our would-be protagonist Karla as she agrees, somewhat reluctantly, to move a terminal patient to an experimental ‘basement’ wing of the hospital. Against the advice of her stoic mentors she puts her trust in a doctor who claims to be on the verge of a breakthrough with an experimental treatment. Needless to say, once her, and a couple of other gullibles end up stuck in this underground warren of treatment rooms and corridors, the true threat is revealed – and it can’t be cured by counting sheep!
Trapped underground with a supernatural malevolence in a medical setting – told you it was similar to ‘Autopsy of Jane Doe’. It treats it chills in the same manner to. In the earlier stages of the film the antagonist remains something of an unknown, there’s some decent development of character and the backstory which connects them. Keen to establish that this isn’t quite the same story as the aforementioned ‘Autopsy’, the demon element starts to make its presences known, first in some interestingly shot backstory scenes, and then in the films present. Admittedly, there’s nothing genre defying to be found, but the film does have a good basis for its development, more so than most teen focussed popcorn horrors.
Indeed, early on in the film, I felt that the movie managed to hold its own quite nicely with some dark themes and equally cruel murders and torment from the entity. That said, despite its trying, ‘Awoken’ plays its cards at arms-length with regards to its shocks and jolts, and if you aren’t a fan of ‘jump scares’, then its probably not for you, regardless of effort.
Sure enough, by around the half-hour mark the movie shifts into entertainment mode throwing all manner of sound spiking, camera cutting boos into the fray, and to be honest, fair play, nothing kills my vibe like a supernatural chiller that leaves me hanging around too long with no frights, so kudos there. Its all-textbook stuff, eerie voices in the dark, possessed people smushing their face up against glass windows, mysterious figures appearing at the end of dimly lit corridors only to disappear when the lights come back on; or of course, appear full-screen and screaming in other scenarios.
Admittedly, some are more effective than others, but all in all, it’s entertainment with little investment required.
That said, as the film moves through the motions, and as you would probably expect, some cracks begin to appear in the formula. From the film’s opening statement: “95% of people who experience sleeplessness longer than 18 days rarely survive. The ones who live past this point do not need doctors…they need priests” it’s clear the film is going for sensational over substance, and predictably the characters start to act a little daft, would be heroes and heroines start to become uncharacteristically knowledgeable, pious and a little winey if I’m honest. The more the story tries to develop the antagonist, the more ‘ordinary’ it becomes, losing its edge in the process.
I’ve got to say, at this point the scares start to make less sense too, with a fair number being attributed to visions; indeed, the more the film tries to do, the less impact it seems to make.
Still, the pace maintains, and if just sit back and don’t question too much, you will find that the momentum the film started with is mercifully maintained.
Overall, ‘Awoken’ is a low budget film with big budget aspirations, and for the most part it delivers what it needs to. It’s a film which (ironically) doesn’t really warrant or benefit from too much thinking about but works best when taken at face value. If you enjoy modern supernatural films, and aren’t looking for anything too different, then ‘Awoken’ could be well worth the rent.
I say this often, and whilst I never rave about them, I do find these loud, jump-scare ladened horrors set up a horror double bill a treat when friends are round, and ‘Awoken’ is no different if your stuck for suggestions.