Review: Sleep is the enemy in horror yawner ‘Dead Awake’

Jocelin Donahue snoozes for answers in the sleep paralysis horror “Dead Awake.”

For those unlucky enough to experience it, sleep paralysis is already its own horror movie — a state in which, upon waking or falling asleep, one finds herself unable to speak or move as her brain becomes terrifyingly aware that something is horribly wrong.

Earnestly acted but uninspiringly directed (by Phillip Guzman), the indie horror “Dead Awake” finds the spooky phenomenon exploited for predictable genre thrills. Kate Bowman (“The House of the Devil’s” Jocelin Donahue) is skeptical when her twin sister (also Donahue) dies mysteriously after having nightmarish visions of an evil hag stalking her in her sleep — until more people start dying as they drift off into slumber.

With the help of her sister’s boyfriend (Jesse Bradford) and a wild-eyed doctor (Jesse Borrego), Kate investigates this nefarious dream-stalking evil in a plot that attempts to do for sleep paralysis sufferers what screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick’s “Final Destination” did for hypochondriacs.

Audiences arriving undercaffeinated, however, risk dozing off during repetitive scenes of characters snoozing to their doom. Despite Donahue’s best efforts in a grand finale sleep session with life-or-death stakes, the premise never lives up to its promise.


Supernatural visions of demonic boogeymen have been probed for centuries by artists like Henry Fuseli and explored to more frightening effect in Rodney Ascher’s 2015 documentary “The Nightmare.” Who needs a B-movie horror plot when our brains do the work for us in real life?


‘Dead Awake’

Not rated


Running time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour »

Movie Trailers



Get our weekly Indie Focus newsletter