Haven’t heard of this film? Well, neither had I! But in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, a studio somehow managed to squeeze out this horror-drama-romance yule log right squat on the chest of the viewing public. It’s a dreary, melancholy, over-artsy After.Life clone, which can’t even make the beneficial claim of constantly nude Christina Ricci. Instead we get crazy-junkie Rose McGowan, Amy Smart squinty-ed up to look like a forgotten Olsen Twin, and Nick Stahl continuing his fine trend of evading quality films. With jittery camera work, a murky backdrop, and mediocre acting, this film is astonishing only in that it was actually released theatrically. I would love to tell you what it’s about, but I have no fucking idea. I started playing Angry Birds during the last hour. The two old people who shared the theatre with me were giving me tips on which birds to use. Because as for the film? I’ve heard of someone shoving their head up their own ass, but this film actually reaches up its own ass, and pulls the head down through the butthole, loops it back in through the earhole, and finishes out the belly button. It’s the kind of knot that would make an Eagle Scout cry harder than when the Scoutmaster calls him in for midnight snakebite safety lessons. Director Omar Naim should go back to Emerson and demand a refund, and while he’s at it, take screenwriter Johnny Harrington and drown him in the Charles River. The Winklevoss twins can coxswain the body out to the bay.
It’s called Dead Awake for fuck’s sake! That’s the fucking autotune of film titles. A good screenwriter couldn’t have made up that bad a title on purpose. And why’s it called Dead Awake? Because everybody’s fucking dead. Nick Stahl’s dead, his parents are dead, Rose McGowan’s dead, Amy Smart wishes she was dead or back under Jason Statham, maybe the two Irish morticians are dead, there’s a dead cop who’s may be dead, and there might be a gangbanger ghost who’s also dead. You’re dead. I’m dead. The end. Let’s all go home and have a few whiskeys and pretend this shit never fucking happened.
No, really. That’s the fucking movie. It opens with Dylan O’Rourke (Nick Stahl) in a coffin. The camera comes shaky-cam and blurry-focus like a cut-scene on the Wii. We will learn later that this was done in Junky-Vision. We hear that he died in a fatal car crash. Then we cut to seven days earlier, where he stands on a bridge with a yo-yo. Why a yo-yo? Because if you’re going to make a blindingly stupid romantic supernatural drama, you can’t forget to be hammer in the face with the symbolism so people can see the quality stitching in your film degree. You see, yo-yos always come back. Are you fucking kidding me? You know what else comes back? The steak tacos I ate for lunch today when I vomit from your shitty fucking metaphors.
Anyway, he’s on a bridge where he rushes out to stop a cab which crashes. He walks over and puts his hand on the back of the cab. Then a cop appears and tells him he’s crazy. And suddenly, poof!, the cab is gone, like the last straight male fans of “Glee.” And now, there’s a candle at the bridge in the rain. And then the cop is gone. And we don’t know who died in the cab. But it’s raining, and there’s sad music, and Nick Stahl has a facial expression, so we should probably all assume bad stuff happened in his head. Cut forward to the mortuary where Dylan works. He’s gabbing about the stages of grief with a corpse who keeps blinking and fidgeting. So you might think this is going to be a movie where he can talk to dead folks. But it isn’t. Just like the cab may or may not be there with the cop who may or may not be there.
Are you with me? Why? I don’t even know what I’m typing any more. Dylan works in a mortuary for an Irish couple. We know they’re Irish because they say “shite” and “fook” every chance they get. Also they drink whiskey. Also, they carry shillelaghs and wear four-leaf clovers and have to battle small gremlins who are trying to steal their breakfast cereals. If a white man put on blackface and sang Mammy while eating watermelon, we’d be up in arms. But should a fat man who looks the bloated combination of Billy Connolly and George Lucas do Irish-face, I’m supposed to endure it. I don’t even know if he’s actually Irish, but I sincerely hope the entire County Cork Piggy’s his ass with the Blarney Stone for his sins against my people.
So the mortuary. They’re going to bury the old high school quarterback. So everyone comes out and says horrible things about Dylan when they seem him lurking about the wake. Because even extras resent being in this movie. He then sees his ex-girlfriend Natalie (Amy Smart) now with his old fratastically doucheriffic best friend Steve (Ben Marten). If I’m mad about the Irish, you lawyers and MBAs are gonna be pissed. It’s like they had him freeze-dried in carbonite in a fucking Massengil box and pulled him out solely for this film. But hey, they’re gonna get married eventually, and so there’s lot of awkward conversations and then Dylan is depressed. So Decko, the Irish stereotype, sets a bet where he decides to fake Dylan’s death and put him in a coffin for a wake. The bet is that Dylan believes that no one will come to his funeral. And so they put him in a coffin and print the obituary. This becomes the official creepiest way to woo a former lover back into your arms. No standing outside a window strumming a guitar or crashing a rehearsal dinner dressed like a baby can ever top faking your own fucking funeral to get attention.
This is the point when Rose McGowan enters, as Charlie, a junkie who papers her crackden with obituaries, and who’s in for 20K to a meathead thug with a pullstring that allows him only to say, “Where’s my money, Charlie? Where’s my money, you junkie bitch?!” And then he uses his patented White Trash Pimp Hand action to wallop her. McGowan tries for something between Ophelia and Oh Fuck No, and dear God does she miss. However, with the wooden faced Nick Stahl and Amy Smart quietly reading the script for a better movie off camera, McGowan’s awful performance is the only delight in the film. Plus, at certain angles, she seriously looks like Michael Jackson.
I’m not writing any more. Honestly, none of you are going to ever see this film, even out of morbid curiosity. My only hope is to instill in you a Pavlovian sense of anxiety so that when the words Dead Awake ever appear on your TV or Netflix queue, you run screaming from the room to the nearest bottle of brown liquid and chug until you can’t think straight. Because that’s clearly how this movie was written. You ever play that game where you write for five minutes on a piece of paper and then pass it to the next person who can only read the last three words of what you wrote to continue? That’s how this feels. At one point, every single character in the film is either dead or thought to be dead, and has the magical ability to talk to ghosts who don’t know they’re dead. The rest of the film becomes a tug of war between Nick trying to convince Charlie he’s not dead and him trying to get back into Amy Smart’s pants. He should know the quickest way to her heart is to have someone steal yours and make you have to electrocute yourself. It’s like the Sixth Sense, if Shyamalan wrote it after getting severely beaten by angry Avatar fans. But, in this film, you can touch and feel ghosts, and everyone can see you, and WHY AM I STILL WRITING THIS FUCKING REVIEW?
The nicest thing I can say is that they manage to play strings and piano music over every accursed frame of this film, which runs a scant 83 minutes, 23 of which are made up of replays of prior scenes. Which is nice, because you can close your eyes and pretend you’re on hold with the pharmacist for your jock-itch cream, a better proposition than watching this film.