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Awake (DVD)

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Awake DVDReviewed by Nomad

Starring Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Terrence Howard, Lena Olin

Directed by Joby Harold

Distributed by Genius Products


Some movies are packed to the gills with so much action, it seems all you’d have to do is plug in two likable actors with a bit of chemistry and set them running at breakneck speed. Other movies are more cerebral and what we’d call pretty (American for indie movie fodder), requiring actors capable of grabbing an audience with a glance and hanging onto them throughout the film. The tension builds and we feel empathy for our hero, anger toward their enemies and pain with the loss of tertiary characters we’ve grown fond of. You are hooked in and as the credits roll, you feel a sort of accomplishment in having shared the experience.

Awake is one such tale, centering around the life of Clay Beresford (Christensen), a young rich power player, mommas boy and hopeless romantic. It seems Clay’s heart has irregularities and at any time, he could drop. This could be why his mother (still drop dead sexy Olin) keeps such a tight grip on him, but it is nothing beyond what any loving, protective mother would exude. Then we have Sam (Alba), Mom’s assistant and secret lover to Clay and Dr. Jack Harper (Howard), Clay’s doctor, of course. These characters are thrown at you fairly quickly and with a sleepy, at-ease sort of pace. No rushing here. Suddenly, in the space of 10 minutes, Clay reveals his love for Sam, marries her and then has his ticker give out. Flash forward to the hospital where teachers at Hogwart’s school of medicine, Dr. Lupin and Carver of course (yes her name is really carver!!! So it was either medicine or serial killing for her) lay in wait along side a twitchy Fisher Stevens.

Awake DVDHERE is where the horror comes in. As Clay goes under the anesthesia, he realizes that he is still awake even though he can’t move or speak. What’s worse, he can feel the blade as it slides into his chest. As we listen to Christensen’s monotone mugging of dealing with the pain and taking his mind elsewhere, we begin to see a plot to kill Clay revealing itself in the waking world. To tell you who is the evil fiend and who their accomplices are would give away the meat of it, but suffice to say, you will not care. As I said before, a movie as quiet as this has two options. One is to be wildly stylized like, say, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where Clay has to find a way through the pain induced dementia in his head to hold onto the identities of his would be murderers and stay alive long enough to reveal them. The other would be to hire top notch actors to grab you by the throat and drag you along for the ride. Lack of chemistry on all points could be to blame, but never the less, only Olin delivers the performance required. Sadly, she can not carry this film alone and the title Awake becomes ironic as we nod off in boredom.

Jarred to my senses by music on the menu screen, I’m faced with the second horror of Awake. EXTRAS!! Commentary by writer/wirector Joby Harold is probably the one enjoyable piece of film for me, but having watched it days after screening the film, I can say it wasn’t anything I wanted to experience after sitting through the film the first time. Harold is a first time director and his enthusiasm for the material shows through and dare I say, is more infectious than his main characters.

Awake DVDYou are allowed Harold commentary on the 7 deleted scenes as well. The scenes don’t bring anything extra to the movie and are no more exciting than what made it in, so hearing why they were cut doesn’t do anything for me. The high point would be the third scene in which Olin delivers what is probably her only real villain scene, allowed to throw in some great emotional range. True it isn’t really needed in the film, but it is great to watch a quality actress work a scene. The next deleted scene provides the only moment of humor in the film, again, not needed to tell a story but a shame that one laugh is killed. The last scene plays as sort of a It’s a Wonderful Life flashback with present day incarnations of characters looking on. While it reveals a bit more of Clay’s back story which is salted through out the film, the event does nothing more than attempt a miss-direct, something that often comes off forced and is a major pet peeve of mine. As a famous director turned Robot Chicken star would say … WHAT A TWIST!!

Under The Knife and Behind the Camera: The Making of Awake is your basic fluff piece behind the scenes bit where everyone on set loves everyone else…the actors were great…the director was incredible…the PA’s were fantastic at bringing coffee, etc etc. If you loved the film and/or are in love with Alba and/or Christensen, you have to sit through all 13 minutes of it. A small price to pay to ogle your idols one more time.

Storyboard to Film Comparison is a tedious exercise in, what would appear to be a company struggling to give you another extra. On a split screen, we watch a scene from the film in one half with the story board sitting in the other. I’ve seen this done with crew members doing the voices of animated characters along with board panels, creating a fun feature, but this delivery just seemed slapped together and boring. Maybe I’m just not a hardcore enough film geek to get it? Lastly, we have the theatrical trailer, so one might relive the joy of first hearing about Awake, back before they knew better.

Special Features

  • Audio commentary with writer/wirector Joby Harold
  • Seven deleted scenes
  • Under The Knife and Behind the Camera: The Making of Awake behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Storyboard-to-film comparisons
  • Trailer

    Film:

    2 out of 5

    Special Features:

    2 1/2 out of 5

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    American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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    Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

    Directed by Colin Bemis


    Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

    The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

    As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

    Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

    Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

    In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

    On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

    In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

    Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

    • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
    3.5

    Summary

    Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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    Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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    We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

    In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

    Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

    If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

    The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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    Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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    Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

    Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


    Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

    17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

    What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

    • Film
    2.0

    Summary

    Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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