Awakened Is a Needlessly Incoherent Thriller


This needlessly incoherent thriller treats its convoluted nonsense with grave seriousness. It’s mawkish, maudlin, and tongue-tied — countless scenes end with characters excusing themselves to go to bed, and you may want to join them. Julianne Michelle plays Samantha, a sulky, traumatized young woman who returns to her hometown after 14 years in foster care to solve her mother’s murder, a childhood incident she witnessed but has since blocked out.

She suspects her recovering alcoholic father (weepy, weary-eyed John Savage) is the culprit, yet she inexplicably moves back in with him. Meanwhile, she begins working for a former politician turned funeral home entrepreneur (a game Steven Bauer), an old friend of her mother’s whom she enlists as her sleuthing accomplice. But Bauer, of course, has some twisted skeletons in his closet.

You’d think that co-directors Joycelyn Engle and Arno Malarone would detect some campy humor within Awakened‘s many ridiculous plot twists: Bauer’s secret backing by a cookie-cutter mafioso; the trench-coat-clad apparition that repeatedly tips his fedora to Samantha; and the sudden emergence of Samantha’s estranged uncle (Edward Furlong in snarling, hissing mode), who may or may not be insane.

But the filmmakers are as desperate for this material to haunt us as they are indifferent to its making sense. Engle and Malarone flood the film with fleeting, slow-motion flashbacks and gothic nightmares about miscarriages.

But with such a charmless heroine at its center and a totally implausible conclusion, Awakened ends up the cinematic equivalent of white noise.