'Dead Awake'

Inept quasi-thriller "Dead Awake" gives the appearance of being a tricky suspense exercise, hints at supernatural elements and throws in a little crime drama before settling for true romance and some hazy spirituality.

Inept quasi-thriller “Dead Awake” gives the appearance of being a tricky suspense exercise, hints at supernatural elements and throws in a little crime drama before settling for true romance and some hazy spirituality. None of these elements are well developed, let alone engaging or convincing. The result acts enough like a real movie (or at least a B-grade time-killer) to look at home in Netflix queues and on latenight cable, but lacks any core reason for being, save perhaps as a tax shelter. Pic opened on 54 U.S. screens Friday and is unlikely to remain on any this weekend.

Ten years ago, on his high school graduation night, Dylan (Nick Stahl) abandoned his high hopes and “forever” girlfriend, Natalie (Amy Smart), and ended up working at a funeral home. Seeing said ex with her replacement beau at a former classmate’s crowded wake, Dylan bets his boss that no one will show up if they fake his own memorial fete. But after he falls asleep in a coffin for the night, things get a wee bit weird, notably as he crosses paths with junkie Charlie (Rose McGowan), in trouble with thugs. Having seen him play dead, she now thinks he’s her guardian angel.

After many red herrings, we finally discover what happened a decade ago. That disclosure leads to a denouement of forgiveness, reconciliation and mysticism that really didn’t require half of the murky script’s fleeting prior ideas, or the stabs at spooky atmospherics by helmer Omar Naim (of Robin Williams sci-fi drama “The Final Cut”). In a closing-credits ditty, McGowan husks about “shadows of life without meaning,” which might serve as this script’s thumbnail coverage report.

Playing down and out, McGowan at least gets something to work with, though until the end, Charlie’s presence here makes little sense; Stahl and Smart are stuck with blank-slate roles. Brian Lynner and Kim Grimaldi have some painfully twinkle-eyed moments as the Irish emigre funeral-home owners.

Des Moines-shot production’s packaging is adequate if uninspired, with a muted color palette the most assertive design choice.

Dead Awake

Production

A New Films Cinema release of an NFC presentation in association with Tax Credit Finance of a New Films Intl. and Jason Price/Lucas Jarach production. Produced by Anthony Gudas, Jason Price, Lucas Jarach. Directed by Omar Naim. Screenplay, John Harrington, David Boivin, Justin Urich, from a story by Harrington.

Crew

Camera (color, Super 16-to-35mm), David A. Armstrong; editor, Miklos Wright; music, John Hunter; production designer, Cecilia Montiel; set decorator, Diana Quiroz; costume designer, Carlos Brown; sound, Leonel Pedraza; supervising sound editor/re-recording mixer, P. Daniel Newman; assistant director, Cory Johnson; second unit directors, Jason Price, Lucas Jarach; casting, Mary Vernieu, JC Cantu. Reviewed on DVD, San Francisco, Dec. 6, 2010. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 93 MIN.

With

Nick Stahl, Rose McGowan, Amy Smart, Ben Marten, Brian Lynner, Kim Grimaldi, James Serpento, Jack Mishler, Justin Marxen, Shane Simmons, Rachel Storey, Brittany Slater, Paul Nycz.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more