“Dead Awake”, a film by Phillip Guzman, is a true psychological thriller that links the supernatural with the sleep paralysis phenomenon. Sufferers of sleep paralysis find themselves unsure if they’re asleep or awake, but more notably unable to move despite their awareness of what’s happening around them.
The film centres around social worker Kate (Jocelin Donahue) whose sister Beth (played by the same actress), seemingly a sufferer of mental illness but more importantly sleep paralysis, dies in her sleep. Both Kate and Beth’s boyfriend Evan (Jesse Bradford) are determined to get to the bottom of her death, especially when similar deaths follow.
While in the state of sleep paralysis, victims get a visit from the terrifying “Night Hag”, whose true danger is only revealed after they fall asleep. Sufferers of the phenomenon start dropping like flies, and the means to off the Night Hag becomes the top priority. With the help of Dr Hassan (Jesse Borrego), an expert in the field, the trio start searching for a way to get rid of the terrifying figure and sleep peacefully again. To do so, they must take risks and directly expose themselves to the Night Hag and potentially risk their own lives.
Writer Jeffrey Reddick (who you may know from the “Final Destination” franchise) nails the horror genre, with an original script that is both intriguing and terrifying. Lines such as “how do you stop believing in something you know to be true?” are haunting and really put you in the shoes of the characters, similar to the way “Final Destination” did. If you as a viewer can imagine you meeting your maker at the hands of whatever creature the movie has cooked up (visible or not), then you’ve got a good recipe for a horror cocktail.
Donahue, although only playing the 2 characters for a short part of the film, nails the roles and it’s hard to believe it’s not two different people when they appear in the same scene together. Bradford also excels as the boyfriend who’s dealing with grief as well as searching for answers, and Borrego plays the slightly creepy and unhinged doctor very well.
“Dead Awake” is a true sense of psychological thrills, offering more than just jump scares – it also messes with your mind and quite frankly makes that glorious moment of going to bed at the end of the day a lot less appealing.