This derivative horror from director Philip Guzman pulls its influences from the classic Nightmare On Elm Street but doesn’t have a bogeyman in the league of Freddy Krueger to make it either effective or frightening. Here it’s the Night Hag, a deformed demon that attacks when characters are struck with sleep paralysis; a genuine condition that renders one awake but unable to move. While it’s a good set-up for perhaps one screen death, repeating it becomes a little dull, especially when all the victim can really do is lie still looking terrified while the aforementioned Hag kills. If there’s any real recommendation for Dead Awake it’s with the performance of Jocelin Donahue, who made a major debut in The House Of The Devil a few years back, and has been consistently good since.
Donahue plays a dual role as twin sisters Kate and Beth. Night terrors are plaguing Beth, and she’s convinced something in her dreams is trying to kill her. Naturally her family and boyfriend Evan think it’s all in her mind, until she dies in her sleep. Soon Kate and Evan are experiencing the same nightmares, and uncover the legend of an ancient evil that has latched onto their souls and will slay them in their sleep.
It’s a well-used formula, and even when the attacks take place outside of the bedroom — a scene in a bathtub mimics Wes Craven’s classic a little too closely — it offers nothing new to genre enthusiasts and it all leads to a predictable coda. Guzman’s direction is solid enough, it all looks good, and it makes a change to see adult characters in peril and not the usual teenage set, but Donahue deserves better material for her talent. In the end, the lack of thrills in Dead Awake is in its premise. A good idea for a short, perhaps, but not enough substance to stretch it to a feature.
8 May 2017