Thursday, July 13, 2017

Review of DEAD AWAKE: Strangled in Sleep

July 13, 2017

Beth Bowman is a young woman who experiences sleep paralysis. She had consulted several specialists about it, but she continues to suffer from it.  One day, after telling her twin sister Kate about her problem, Beth mysteriously died in her sleep. Kate took it upon herself to investigate why her sister died, because even she is beginning to have the sleep related visions her sister described.

Sleep paralysis is a real natural phenomenon that happens during falling asleep or awakening when when the person feels unable to move even if they are awake. They may see or feel hallucinations but are unable to react, hence becoming a frightening experience. The body becomes immobile during REM sleep, so you will feel paralyzed if you are awakened before the REM cycle is completed.

This horror film plays up on the sleep paralysis phenomenon, particularly one of its older names -- the "Old Hag Syndrome". Victims tell of an ugly old woman pinning them down while they struggle to breathe as she sits heavily on their chest. The writers spin the legend off into literal dimensions, including the suggestion that the old hag experience can be transmitted from one victim to another by mere belief in it.

Jocelin Donahue has had a long 10-year career as an actress but nothing really stands out in her filmography. She did win a Best Actress award at Screamfest Horror Film Festival for her lead role in "The House of the Devil" (2009). In "Dead Awake," Donahue tackled a challenging dual role in this film and I thought she did well. She was able to portray a weak troubled Beth side by side a stronger confident Kate, no mean acting feat. 

There were two names I recognized in the cast. One is Jesse Bradford who was cast as Evan, Beth's painter boyfriend who helps Kate in her investigation. Bradford was actually in a lot of prominent films in the 1990s and 2000s. The last time I saw him was as the lead in "The Echo" (2008), Hollywood's version of the Filipino horror film "Sigaw" (2004). He has eschewed his clean-cut, boy-next-door for a long-haired, scruffy artist look in this film.

The other familiar face in the cast is Lori Petty. She will be remembered more for her earlier films like "Point Break" (1991) and especially "A League of Their Own" (1992) than anything she did after those two roles. Here she plays Dr. Sykes, the no-nonsense, all scientific sleep specialist, who dismisses all the horror stories Kate tells her.

The worst casting in this film though was for the key role of Dr. Hassan Davies, who is another sleep specialist who subscribed to the supernatural nature of sleep paralysis based on his case studies. The actor cast, Jesse Borrego, looked unkempt and sinister, most unconvincing as a sleep doctor. I wonder how a sensible woman like Kate would even consider talking to or trusting such a creepy-looking man.

When they show the grotesque face of the old hag so clearly on the screen, it loses something. In things like this, less is more -- less exposure, more scary. Even if the horror aspect is off, at least the suspense thriller aspect of this Philip Guzman film still works. Even if the topic is about sleep, it is not really the total snoozer you may expect it to be. 4/10.


  1. This is terrifying kind of movie. And this is indeed happening to others. Is this a kind of sickness? Does it have a cure? By the way, what had happened to Beth? Does she recover from such death-defying sleeping malady? The move has the answer for this. I have to watch it.

  2. I want to watch this movie. What happened to Beth? This sure I think is a good movie base on your explanations. Thanks

  3. For me if a horror fails the rating, it means it's pretty bad because the movie didn't do well for its genre. I remember Donahue from a review, will have to check it out :)

  4. Now we all want to watch the movie!

  5. Wow, this is another interesting movie to watch and I find it really unique. This made me want to be a sleep specialist. What would it feels like though, If I am a sleep specialist. Thank you so much for sharing this very honest review with us Sir Fred.

  6. OMG! To begin with I actually like the story line! I've read about Sleep Paralysis and a movie with that subject sounds interesting! Too bad the casting and screenplay fails!

  7. Oh my! Looks interesting.. yet horror... Let's check it out..

  8. A sleep paralysis would be a terrible way of waking up. I could not imagine myself being in that kind of situation, specially if you are under anesthesia for surgery. I may not watch this movie, no horror for me, not brave enough, haha.