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(2012)
Directed by Lou Simon & Douglas Villalba
Starring Stephanie Pitts, Nikolas Holms, Jonathan ‘Legacy’ Perez, John J. Thomassen, Nancy Sayegh

The story is simple enough.  5 friends decide to have a Hurricane Party while outside of their door Miami is getting assaulted by the huge storm.  The ‘party’ consist of 5 friends (2 friends, their boyfriends, and a fifth wheel) sitting around the kitchen drinking.  One topic that comes up in conversation is about a recent “spiritual healing” that one of the girls had done.  So they decide to try to do one on their own.  But apparently because someone’s cell phone was one recording it, it somehow opens the doorway for an entity or being from the ‘other side’ comes through into our world and starts picking of the friends, one by one.  While I give them credit for trying to come up with an original concept of how some kind of mysterious out-worldly demon comes through, but this was really pushing the envelope.

Coming up with any type of original idea these days is always difficult.  Which is why I will give high praise when someone does do this.  Unfortunately, this is not one of these times.  For me, to make a good movie, no matter the budget, requires one thing: for it to be entertaining.  This means that it is going to require a good story, believable acting, and if we’re talking horror movies, it has be either scary or at least have some really creepy atmosphere.  But the story always comes first.  Having a bunch of jump scares with no real story doesn’t not make a good movie.  In AWAKENED, we have a very basic story.  Yes, they did come up with maybe a different twist on why these people can’t leave the house they are in, so I will give credit for that.  But what happens during the movie is very weak.  The way this entity from the other side comes through is a stretch, by waving your hands over someone when your cell phone is on is going to open some sort of doorway?  Sorry…need something a little bit more thought out than that.

Even if we let that flaw go, the rest of the movie just has these characters drinking, talking or arguing with each other.  Once they go to bed, one gets up and goes to the kitchen.  The lights go out, we hear a scream, and now we have a dead body.  And this is pretty much how the rest of the movie plays out.  Lights go out, another corpse, followed by some screaming, yelling and arguing.  We have two problems here.  The first one is that we really have no idea of what is doing the killing.  I’m not saying I have to have a full disclosure of what is going on, but the concept of ‘we’ll just have the lights go out and then someone is dead’ and that pretty much being the whole story concept, to me is very weak.  It doesn’t give you anything after the movie is over other than the thought “what the hell did I just watch?”

The second problem is the characters.  Sure, they give us a little background of each of the people here.  But for some reason, none of them come off as anybody we are going to care about.  And if you don’t connect or care about them, then you don’t care when one of them dies.  Simple as that.  Now in the ‘80s slasher movies you didn’t care about the characters because they were going to die in some violent and interesting way.  Not just be lying on the floor when the lights come back on. 

The subplot is about the main girl, Gina, who is still having issues with her mom’s death two years ago.  She lost her faith in anything spiritual and has developed a fear of death with has affected her life greatly since then.  With what happens here during the party change her mind?  At this point, I just didn’t care.  I find it hard to believe that for someone to have this great fear of death would decide to go to a party during a hurricane.  The less than stellar acting could have a contributing factor to the lack of connection with the viewer.  None of them were terrible, though I have to say that I didn’t have a problem with Thomassen that much until he gets emotional once the first death happens.  Then it got much worse.  I think having a better cast that could sell these characters might have made up for the lack in the script.

It seems like they started with a simple idea of a movie shot inside of one house.  But they just didn’t develop the story or the action enough.  Having the lights go off, hearing a scream, and then find a corpse on the floor, does not make a scary movie.  Sorry…not in my book.  You need some style, something creative, something creepy.  But even if you don’t have all the special effects to do that, if you have a really good cast, they can sell the scare to the audience.  But not here.

I guess the bottom line is that in one case I don’t need to have everything explained to me as far as what is going on.  But if it is just 90 minutes of people getting killed off screen after the lights go off really doesn’t make that much of an impact to this viewer.  Yes, there is one quick shot of some sort of negative outline of something in the room, but that is about as scary as the film gets.  Unless you included the final scare from the cell phone video, but anybody that has seen a half a dozen J-horror films or any of the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies has seen that several times over.

Is this a terrible film for a low budget production?  Not by any means.  But did I find it entertaining?  No, not by a long shot.  And no matter how low the budget or how bad the film is, if it entertaining, then it has some value.  But I didn’t find any of that here.