According to the title card that opens the movie, “95% of people who experienced sleeplessness longer than 18 days rarely survive. The ones who live past this point do not need doctors… they need priests”.
As you can imagine, Awoken (available on digital platforms since May 8) is a possession horror flick based on night terrors. Directed by Daniel J. Phillips, this movie is the latest in the sleep-paralysis/night-terrors subgenre, which often disappoints despite the potential of such themes. Is Awoken another disappointment or is it above par?
Continue reading and check my final grade below…
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Awoken – story and clichés
Following an opening sequence that teases possession as the main theme in a rather effective way, Awoken starts with young medical student Karla (Sara West) attempting to cure her brother from a terminal sleep illness called Fatal Familial Insomnia, which causes you to be unable to sleep until you die. On her quest to help him, a more sinister reason for his condition is revealed, as her brother’s behaviour becomes increasingly creepier and as Karla finds archival footage of scientific-religious experiments carried out on patients with similar conditions.
Despite being an independent horror movie, with plenty of creative freedom, Awoken relies on every possession-related cliché you can think of. Not just in terms of the tricks used to scare (jump-scares, loud noises, creepy footage, scary basement…), but also when it comes to story and characters. In Awaken, all the protagonists act in such an unlikeable and convenient way that can only be attributed to the fact that their purpose is only to lead the viewer from point A to point B. Yet, the story itself hits all the plot points you’ve come to expect in a subpar horror flick: science can’t do anything for a character, so it’s necessary to rely on religion; various items are discovered to help the main characters progress in their quest; predictable twist with a good character revealing themselves as the villain…
Exposition instead of visual storytelling
Even though the overabundance of clichés and tropes gets old and annoying within a few minutes, the worst aspect of Awoken is that there’s no room for interpretation and, therefore, no tension nor mystery.
In fact, this is the kind of movie where characters keep telling the plot to each other, explaining to one another every single detail, as though the director had no idea about how to deliver information in an either visual or engaging way. As a result, the movie comes off as visually tiresome and conceptually boring.
Competency vs laziness
As lazy as the script and its delivery are, Awoken is a competently made film with a few aspects that are definitely worth praising. First and foremost, this is a film that understands budget restraints: the movie takes place in a few, narrow locations, and makes the most of them by creating an eerie atmosphere thanks to the creepy and thought-out set design.
As cliched as they are, some of the scares in the movie are rather effective (especially one towards the end) due to the great use of lighting and the location at the filmmakers’ disposal. At the same time, these aspects are quite frustrating: if only more effort was put into story and characters, Awoken would have been a decent, scary and satisfying watch.
Unfortunately, the script is truly derivative and awful, and the characters are insanely underdeveloped and mostly unlikeable. As a result, the inexperienced actors who make up most of the cast have very little to work with, which negatively affects their performances.
If you are a diehard fan of possession and exorcism flick, though, you might want to give Awoken a watch: it’s got enough scares and creepy moments to satisfy horror viewers who aren’t very demanding and just want to watch a throwaway horror flick.
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