Another impulse purchase from the bargain bin of one of England’s more popular supermarket ‘Dead Awake’ promised me terror the likes of which would prevent me from sleeping peacefully ever again. What it delivered was a by the numbers horror movie which, whilst interesting in concept, failed to generate the scares or indeed hold my attention until the end.
The film takes the concept of the ‘Hag Theory’ and attempts to make a horror film blending fictional supernatural elements with an interesting history and theories of the ‘real-life’ condition. ‘Hag Theory’, more practically known as ‘Parasomnia or sleep paralysis’, is a genuine condition where the subject wakes from sleep, but is unable to move. Theory has it that the brain wakes, but the body doesn’t, as a result of the panic the mind generates dream like hallucinations – historically materialising in the guise of an old woman, hag or witch, sitting on your chest sucking the life from you. Grim or what!
In ‘Dead Awake’ we see a group of characters who are experiencing a rather deadly version of the phenomenon where a supernatural element indeed exists in this plane between dream and awake, and is stalking victims chosen because of their weak state of mind. After first consulting with psychiatrists they soon realise they are dealing with something science cannot help them with, and so naturally turn to the clichéd ‘spiritualist doctor’ - you know the brilliant doctor who was shunned and shamed by his peers because of his wild theories relating to the supernatural.
As their numbers dwindle, they soon turn to any means to defeat their foe.
As with most modern studio movies the acting isn’t all that bad, nor are the technical elements of the film. The locations are varied, the cinematography is generic but competent, and it is difficult to see just how these movies fall as flat by their conclusion as they do.
Despite a strong start, as the concept is introduced and the threat is first hinted, it is clear that by the half way mark you have seen the best ‘Dead Awake’ has to offer. The characters are ok, but again nothing beyond standard stereotypes and the film goes through all the familiar motions. In the early scenes the scares come as you would expect them to in that the victim falls asleep, the creature, comes from an out of focus camera rapidly into focus accompanied by a jolting volume spike. I was hoping that with a bit more elaboration about the ‘hag’ and a few more effective scare movies this film would score a solid 4 out of 5.
Sadly the film does not hold it together, and whilst it doesn’t unravel to the point of stupidity, it clearly wrote itself into a corner and rather than getting more frightening the scare sequences become replaced with length and unnecessary scenes of exposition.
The scare sequences also, are repetitive and fail to maintain sufficient atmosphere so as to be scary in any way. Disappointing really as all the ingredients seemed to be there, but they just didn’t come together effectively.
Overall, I have said all I need to say, competent but not effective, would be how I would summarise ‘Dead Awake’, and it’s a shame, what a great concept squandered. ‘Dead Awake’ isn’t unwatchable by any means and if the subject material interests you it will serve well as an opening movie for your evening, but it isn’t anywhere near as scary as it needed to be.