Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Dylan, as played by actor Nick Stahl, is a tired and exhausted mess. As we mentioned in the last Nick Stahl joint we saw, a young man who’s making movies at a phenomenal rate, he always plays guys who are exhausted. Maybe because he shoots a new movie like every week, I don’t know, but Nick needs to get some rest. Why is Dylan so tired? Well, that’s really convoluted and involved and you will literally have to watch this movie ‘Dead Awake’ to the bitter end to find all of this out. If you’re loving the way this movie will play out, then this will not a problem. If you’re bored by this movie and would like to turn it off, say like somebody I know who might be me, then you’re kind of stuck.

Right now Dylan works in the mortuary of his only friend, Dekko the old Irish Dude (Bryan Lynner) and his wife Liz as played by actress Kim Grimaldi. I just KNEW that was Marion Ross playing Liz and waited until after this movie was over to see the credits, but no, it’s Kim Grimaldi.

Anyway, something really bad happened on a bridge of this city ten years ago involving a cab and a death which has basically destroyed Dylan’s life. Who is dead? Well, again, this information is not forthcoming and it’s kind of important that we don’t give it away even though I’m of the opinion that concealing this information does this movie no favors since the revelation is not all that earth shattering. Every year at the same time of this horrible event, Dylan shows up on the scene, attempting to find answers to what has happened. He is always greeted by the investigating detective on this scene (James Serpento) who tells him over and over again it was just an accident, but Dylan knows it’s something more. Still, Dylan’s life basically consist of just working with the dead, sleepless nights and watching the old high school video of his long gone girlfriend Natalie (Amy Smart) over and over again.

Then an old classmate passes on bringing the folks in school back together again at the funeral parlor, including the long gone Natalie. Nope, she’s not the dead one. It appears that Natalie dumped Dylan for the scurrilous Steve (Ben Marten) ten years ago, and this, combined with Dylan’s inability to cope with whatever happened back in the day, has basically ruined his life. But that fire for Natalie still burns bright.

While that Funeral was packed with people, Dylan informs Dekko that no one would show up his funeral, Dekko makes a bet that it would be overflowing with people, so they put Dylan’s obit in the paper. Dumbest idea ever, but we’re rolling with it. So Dylan is lying in the casket pretending to be dead and gets two visitors, Natalie and a dope fiend named Charlie (Rose McGowan). Who is Charlie and why is the Dope Fiend floating around this movie. We can’t say, but when Charlie sees Dylan again, who she thought was dead, she has become convinced that he’s her dead guardian angel given the task of escorting out of this life. Dope fiends, I tell you.

But what if Charlie’s right? What if Dylan is dead? Sure, we can see him, hear him and touch him but there are enough weird things going on that just might indicate that Dylan only thinks he’s alive. And why is Dylan so miserable? Why did he and Natalie really part ways when they seemed so perfect for each other? And what does the dope fiend have to do with any of this? All will be answered, my friends, with your satisfaction with these answers being purely subjective.

If had to sum up ‘Dead Awake’, helmed by Omar Naim who directed the very underrated Robin William vehicle a few years back ‘Final Cut’, I would say that is a movie chock full of setup and tension, eventually let down by the payoff. As we mentioned earlier, nothing is revealed to us, which is fine, and it is effective considering we’re pretty much the only ones in the movie who don’t know what’s going on. Dead people occasionally move. Is it real or is Dylan imagining it? The tape of the ex-girlfriend has a glitch. What does that mean? Who is the guy that materializes out of nowhere with the tattoos? Who are the mystical figures that run in front of the camera real fast when Dylan’s back is turned?

The truth of the matter is that none of this mysterious stuff really amounts to anything at all, just the director dealing from the bottom of the deck to create some mysticism, that for most part, isn’t there. At its core, ‘Dead Awake’ is about a messed up dude who needs to learn how to deal with his problems with a sub story about a messed up dude who needs to help a messed up chick deal with her problems. This gives us a payoff which I personally found very disappointing, considering all the buildup, and a twist which is insanely bizarre.

What helped make the buildup so tense were the solid performances turned in by very fine cast, particularly Rose McGowan, and Naim’s effective use of lighting which cast such a foreboding pall over the film. There was an overriding sense of dread that was constant throughout this movie. But again, once we finally get where we needed to go, all of that tension seemed wasted. And don’t get us started on the twist which opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms that we’d rather not dwell on.

‘Dead Awake’ looked great, had a nice cast performing nicely and had some interesting ideas floating around it’s narrative but the payoff… oh, the payoff… we expected more. But it’s all subjective enough where you may find it far more satisfying.

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