Film review: Dead Awake induces sleep

Jocelin Donahue (left) and Lori Petty star in Dead Awake.
Jocelin Donahue (left) and Lori Petty star in Dead Awake.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / HORROR

DEAD AWAKE (NC16)

100 minutes/Opens tomorrow/1.5/5 stars

The story: Sleep paralysis is a syndrome in which people are awake, but are unable to move. It brings danger to some when a ghastly figure appears in their bedrooms. Twins Kate and Beth (Jocelin Donahue) are new victims and must find an answer before it is too late.

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What is at heart a B-movie based on a disease-of-the-week premise is dressed up in fancy clothes to pass off as a work of psychological horror.

This is a risky move and one that fails.

The hook here is sleep paralysis, a frightening but real problem in which sleepers are conscious, but unable to move or make a sound. There is added terror here, when people with histories of the syndrome are found dead.

Audiences are brought into the story through the experiences of Kate Bowman (Donahue), the serious twin to the flaky Beth (also Donahue), who lives with her boyfriend Evan (Jesse Bradford).

Producers from the Final Destination horror franchise (2000-2011) have tapped relative newcomer Phillip Guzman to helm this work, which lifts a template from The Ring (2002) and other franchises. A bizarre, deadly phenomenon is disbelieved by the main character, who has to play detective (also known as the handy "I just have to get to the bottom of this" motive), enlisting the aid of people who are either scoffers or believers, but might also become victims.

This would have played out with somewhat enjoyable, if predictable, results, except for the production's pompousness. The sisters are not the best of friends, so there is a lot of passive-aggressive dialogue; woman of science Dr Sykes' (Lori Petty) sceptical blather is contrasted with the rants from monster hunter Hassan (played with unintentionally hilarious intensity by the bug-eyed Jesse Borrego).

This movie is a success in one respect: It proved that sleep paralysis is real, because it induced it in this reviewer.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline 'Dead Awake induces sleep'. Print Edition | Subscribe