The newest instalment in the long line of horror B-movies ready to grace our silver screens, Dead Awake (2016) directed by Phillip Guzman is a generic film with generic characters and a not completely generic plot. Friends battle inter-dimensional being, people get killed, true love saves the day, so on and so forth.
Now that’s not to say that there’s nothing to like about it, but it definitely does NOT bring anything new to the table. While the original plot does offer a decent backbone, it falls victim to the many tropes plaguing horror films these days. But in order to give this film a fair shot, we’re going to break it down to tackle the finer points.
First of all, the acting is not terrible, and considering the dialogue, may even be kind of good. That being said, it’s clear that the main stars Jocelin Donahue and Jesse Bradford are almost too good for this film. Their respectful performances do well to keep up the air of intrigue and terror and it’s only when they are left to deliver cheesy dialogue that the acting takes a dip. The relationship development between the two, and the purposeful distance between them, really drives home the feeling the film is trying to give. The villain of the film is a creature from another dimension that attacks when you fall asleep, making the theme of loneliness key here, as when the main enemy visits to you in your sleep, there’s no one there to help you.
On the plus side, the theme is actually quite strong throughout, and with good direction and decent cinematography the scares keep coming. While the pacing can be a bit slow at times, I believe it adds something to the feeling of impending doom. The quiet before the storm, so to speak. Thanks in part to the sound design and creature design, though VERY familiar (think The Ring), the moments when the monster appears on screen are truly terrifying. Even when you know it is coming, you may still find yourself jumping every time. At the same time this trope of constant jump-scares, while effective, does seem a bit cheap and overused.
And lastly, if you actually know anything about sleep-paralysis, or perhaps suffer from it in your own life, you might find yourself yelling at the screen. The script, being the weakest part of the production, does not allow for much critical thinking on the part of any of the characters, usually driving them to make bad decisions at a breakneck pace. This could have been handled better in terms of the script and the twists and turns that it takes, specifically in the way that many choices seem to exist solely to move the plot forward and, oddly enough, simply to lengthen it.
Personally the idea of something actually trying to come after you in a state such as sleep-paralysis is one of the scariest things I can think of, but sadly we may have to wait some time to see something take it to the next level. All in all, we have another horror flick that does most things right but is almost too afraid to try anything new, the plot withstanding.
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