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Review Dead Awake (2016): Sadako and Kayako wannabe fails to terrify!

genre: horror, thriller

A long time ago when I was studying at the university I had to prepare for several exams that week and like often rest and sleep was something I deprived myself of. Naturally your body and mind have a way dealing with this and I felt this in something I never experienced before. I had a nightmare. For me that is very rare since I can only recall having two or three of them tops. It was one of those dreams that seemed so real that I thought I was awake already. Then suddenly I saw this woman appear who did not hesitate to grab me by my throat and started strangling me. I screamed but no sound came out. There wasn't a thing I could do since I could not move. Then I woke up. I don't have to tell you that this experience was quite unsettling and terrifying. 

Now there could be a number of explanations for this. Obviously withholding sleep isn't the most clever things to do especially when you are stressed but of course the stress itself also can add anxiety and make you see things. But yes briefly I did consider that something supernatural could have occurred. Normally I really don't believe in those things. However I am not going to rule it out for the off chance those things truly exist. Dead Awake plays around with this phenomenon that is tied to sleep paralysis which is caused by an entity called the Night Hag at least according to a nutty Dr. Hassan Davies (played by Jesse Borrego).

So does Dead Awake do a good job dealing with this creepy premise? For a while it had me going and for the most part it set the right mood and ambiance. The Night Hag is used sparingly and when she appears she doesn't fool around. Damn evil entities, always eager to get down to business without making small talk. Sigh! Sounds good right? Then what's the problem? The problem is that apart from a few moments all the moments that the Night Hag shows up are predictable. While they have an air of being unnerving they mostly aren't scary or creepy. And isn't that the whole idea of a horror film? It's not enough to have your characters on edge when they technically have ample time to deal with this supernatural phenomenon. It would have been nice if the viewer had been made to doubt events. But no attempts are made to give other explanations except for Lori Petty as Dr. Sykes who looked like she didn't want to be in the film. She keeps telling everybody that the phenomenon can be explained scientifically and is relatively harmless. Not even when her patients who suffer from it keep dying. Even as character Dr. Sykes she doesn't give a damn. It would have been sweet to have seen this stubborn woman be confronted with some truth other than the solution they chose. It was so lame. Apart from Petty most of the cast take their roles seriously and is what makes you buy everything. I don't think they could have done more to improve things. Director Phillip Guzman however was out of his depth. He stuck to the most average and predictable conventions of horror without adding anything unique or creative. And he did not have to do that much. He would have accomplished more if he had increased the dread and surprise factor. As it is now The Night Hag comes across as a Sadako (The Ring) and Kayako (Ju-on: The Grudge) wannabe.

Dead Awake doesn't feel like a complete waste of your time however it does commit the carnal sin not to capitalize on the creepy premise. It did not even come close to the real nightmare I had. Almost makes me wish we could replay dreams and then record them so that we could give people some real scares.

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