DIRECTED BY: Omar Naim
FEATURING: Nick Stahl, Rose McGowan, Amy Smart
PLOT: Haunted by the memory of a car crash, a lonely funeral assistant fakes his own
death. Tracking a mystery mourner, he finds himself tangled in intrigue while suffering from bizarre, piecemeal flashbacks from his discordant, seemingly supernaturally influenced past.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: While Dead Awake captures our imagination at first with ominous flashbacks and peculiar visions which emphasize details in a way that foreshadow profound significance, none of these clues pan out to reveal an extraordinary plot. The method of revelation builds interest in previous events that turn out to be not very mysterious once we are let in on their meaning. Worse, at about the halfway point, the story becomes a derivative, conventional chiller.
COMMENTS: The setup: Nick Stahl plays sullen, skulking funeral director who stages his own death to see if old friends will arrive at his funeral. When an enigmatic young woman comes to mutter cryptic utterances over his “corpse,” he follows her and has some unusual misadventures. In the meantime, he flirts with an ex-girlfriend who also came to his viewing, unlocking a cascade of strange memories and guilt about some mysterious, previous tragedy that broke them apart. Eventually, we find out how both women are connected to Nick’s past and to his haunting recollections.
Sounds like the makings of a real whiz-bang chiller-thriller, right? Wrong! What a massive disappointment. I was expecting something clever, brooding and supernatural like Dark Corners, and that’s how Dead Awake starts out. There is a mysterious car crash, a mortuary attendant faking his own funeral, a mysterious griever talking in riddles, indications that half the characters may be dead and not know it, and eerie flashbacks wrought with hidden symbolic meaning.
The non-linear plot, dark tone and twists and turns made me think I was in for a real doozy of a story. And then the film peters out. The flashbacks reveal no great mystery, the symbolism turns out to be arbitrary and empty, and real ideas are replaced with melodrama, over-acting and a grandiose musical score that is more fitting of a sweeping historical epic. The score seems calculated to try to fool the viewer into thinking he is watching something more important than he really is (it didn’t work).
The movie wraps up with an unlikely stretch of a “climax” (more of an anti-climax) and a corny, happy (more like sappy) ending with a lame and very mild twist that opens up a bunch of plot holes.
I paid money for this??? I swear, no more poppy juice and Colt .45 before I read DVD jackets at the video store.
I saw that Nick Stahl was in this and so far, I have seen him in three other movies that turned out to be artistic, independent, and pretty good, so I took a gamble. Mind you, Dead Awake is not a bad movie. It doesn’t smack of major studio schlock. The problem is that is promises to be so darned intriguing and then drops the ball, almost as if a writers strike led to someone with no imagination completing the script from the halfway point.
Rose McGowan, formerly a delicious woman, looks just . . . awful, post plastic surgery.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:
“A poorly structured and even more poorly shot mixture of a gothic suspense thriller with a vanilla romance filmed in Des Moines, “Dead Awake” never comes close to springing to life.”–Mark Olsen, The Los Angeles Times (contemporaneous)
Dead Awake trailer