Monday, June 05, 2017

Dead Awake (2017)

DIRECTOR: Phillip Guzman

WRITER: Jeffrey Reddick


Jocelin Donahue
Jesse Bradford
Lori Petty
Jesse Borrego
Brea Grant
James Eckhouse
Mona Lee Fultz
Billy Blair


When Kate Bowman's twin sister Beth dies during her sleep, Kate is aware something isn't right with her death. Kate starts to investigate her death and discovers that her sister died during a bout of sleep paralysis. When she starts to delve deeper into the phenomenon of sleep paralysis, she will soon discover that all of these victims came into contact with this supernatural monster. She will have to put herself under to try and defeat the creature that killed her sister.

I've always been incredibly fascinated with the whole phenomenon of sleep paralysis. It's one of those things that has always terrified me, but I've never experienced it for myself. I have heard both friends and colleagues talk about their experiences. I have watched documentaries and videos on it. It's always been one of those creepy things that have peaked my interest. Due to never experiencing it for myself, it's almost at Urban Legend status.

Going into Dead Awake, I was excited to watch the movie. I wanted to see how they would tackle this whole theme of sleep paralysis and how they would manage to do this disorder justice. I assume for a lot of folks, this would be a touchy subject. From all the experiences that I've been informed about, it's a pretty scary thing to happen to a person, and I think it needs to be handled with tact and not be exploitive of the disorder. I think after watching Dead Awake, some will find it to be the latter.

When the film began, we open with a woman who is suffering sleep paralysis. Slowly her bedroom door opens, and we see a dark figure crawl towards her bed. This scene immediately felt like Kayako out of The Grudge. Visually, in both it's tone and mood, it feels so similar to that movie that it even featured all of those incredibly glitchy types of movements as Kayako in The Grudge. It's not the first or the last time that I think that this movie borrowed from more popular and better films. It happens more often than not.

Where Dead Awake also gave us moments that felt all too familiar was with the whole 'Sleep Paralysis' element. It could be passed from one person to the next like an evil curse. If it sounds like The Ring, The Grudge or It Follows, it's because it very much in this film. So if the demon kills someone in their sleep paralysis state, the demon is then able to move onto the next person that it comes into contact with. A lot of the imagery like the demon being afraid of the light felt like it borrowed from Lights Out. The demon also looked like Bathsheba from The Conjuring.

I think the biggest issue that I had with Dead Awake is that it's not very interesting or fun. The movie actually feels incredibly dull. The film while delivering a couple of solid and eerie set-pieces, it's just a lot of talking and exposition that really does kill all the tension or any chance of a great build up. Once we see the first attack scene, it's the same thing repeated over and over again. Only one of these plays differently where they use black water and reflections that played very J-Horror like. Other than that, we get scenes of our characters running around and just making it to a crime scene.

Dead Awake is filled with some pretty stupid character decisions as well. The scene that highlights this involves two characters who need to inject a character who is in a sleep paralysis state which brings them out of that state before the demon is able to kill them. Only for one of them to trip over and lose the needle under the couch. This takes two men to jump on the floor to find the needle in a perfectly lit room. The way its shot is just terribly laughable.

The acting in the movie is very hit and miss. Jocelin Donahue is a solid actress, and I loved her in The House Of The Devil. Here she plays dual roles as twins, and while I think she does her best, the material lets her down. Jesse Bradford has seen much better days as well. He is just left to fumble through his lines. I also thought there was no chemistry between the twins and his character. He's meant to be dating one but doesn't even show sadness when she is killed off. Lori Petty who I usually love is completely miscast. She has this odd therapist role but feels like she is doing it as her space cadet, and crazy Orange Is The New Black character. Very weird.

Lastly, when it comes to the scares and suspense, I think the movie tries to at least deliver on that aspect. We have a few creepy set-pieces. While I think a lot of these scenes played very similar to other supernatural films of the last decade, I thought it still worked well enough. This movie looks very inspired by the whole J-Horror craze and a lot of the more creepy moments do look eerie. I think if anything, the director, Phillip Guzman has crafted a nice looking horror film. I can't fault the visuals.



- A woman dies while suffering from sleep paralysis.
- A woman is choked to death by a demon.
- A woman is choked while asleep.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach.
- Someone shoves their fingers into a demon's throat.

Dead Awake has a very cool concept and squanders it completely. The movie while dealing with the very creepy phenomenon of sleep paralysis is let down by a dull and extremely slow pace, rather so-so performances, silly character moments and all too familiar set-pieces. It feels like Dead Awake spends a lot of its time trying to be Lights Out, The Grudge, The Ring and The Conjuring yet never quite manages to get there. You'd be better off watching any of the films mentioned above instead of this movie.


  1. I agree, it was dull and not very entertaining.

    I suppose with the films it's referenced heavily, it's hard not to compare it to them because those films you mentioned have successfully depicted what sleep paralysis is - without meaning to. None of the films you mentioned actually are about sleep paralysis. Intentional or not, it's quite amusing that films about different subject matter nailed the imagery and atmosphere completely while a film actually about it misses the mark.

    The trailer was better in my opinion, I was looking forward to this film because of the trailer, the subject matter and the actors (all of whom have been in great roles prior to this film). I feel maybe it was production or execution along with a blandly written script makes this film a miss?

    1. I think the script lets down the entire film to be honest. As you said, it's just bland. The movie doesn't feel very exciting and adds nothing new to the supernatural film. I like it visually but the rest of it was dull sadly.