Michelle (Steffani Brass) awakes screaming in the private room of a clinic. She's suffering, we learn from the assumptions of those around her, from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Her opening nightmare involves a crucifix rotating furiously on a wall and a creepy demonic woman garrotting her from behind. Back in the world of the awake, she's restrained in her bed by drugs.
She's been in this clinic for a week. The events leading up to her ending up there are a source of interest for detective Henderson (Chantelle Albers). She arrives to interview the exhausted Michelle but overseeing doctor Flanagan (Tom Ohmers) is concerned, and insists the interrogation is to be kept short. Michelle's grandma (Tina Cole) is also present at this juncture.
Michelle proceeds to tell Henderson of how she embarked on a camping trip with friend Sophia (Brooke Mackenzie); this reveal spirals us into flashback mode.
We witness Michelle and Sophia, clearly close friends, appearing chirpy and excited as they prepare for said trip. Also along for the experience are pals Travis (Getty Olm), Rachel (Ann Tomberlin), Nate (Dabier), Sarah (uncredited), Steve (uncredited), Brandon (Charlie Ian) and Jessica (Masha Mendieta). They're all going on a hike through the woodlands of Beckon Falls in the hope of winding up at Sophia's cousin's log cabin.
Following the usual tribulations (they soon lose their way, squabble over how to read the map, and learn that there's no mobile 'phone reception where they are) they spy a house in the distance as dusk approaches. Of course, the collective thought is to go and check it out.
After several knocks at the front door they let themselves in to the unlocked property, and soon discover that it seems to have remained unoccupied for some time. Without further ado, they settle themselves in to their new dwellings very quickly.
Naturally, the booze is quickly opened. While the bulk of the group join in with the revelry, Sophia senses an uneasy atmosphere about the place. Exploring the house alone, she ventures upstairs where she finds an old necklace in a bedroom and, feeling a certain energy emanating from the pendant, fastens it around her neck.
By the end of the evening, the group are given to telling spooky tales. However, something decidedly more eerie lies in store for them.
Once everyone else has retired to bed, Sophia starts to explore again. This time she looks into an old mirror - and immediately receives a vision from the 17th Century, where we find a young woman named Abigail (Stasha Surdyke) is being accused of witchery. Abigail is brought to stand before her unforgiving persecutor Lewis (Wilson Davis). As he passes a death sentence onto her, her eyes glow green and her voice demonic as she curses their small town.
Back in the present tense, the house shakes as Sophia awakens from her trance. The others get out of bed and put the tremor down to a small earthquake; however, Sophia odd behaviour (guttural growling, looking threateningly at her friends) and glowing green eyes are a little more difficult to explain.
Back in the clinic, Michelle's story is cut short by the sight of Sophia walking into her room with pasty face and green eyes. Alas, no-one else can see her. Flanagan terminates the interview at that point, worried that Michelle is getting too stressed. However, Henderson sneaks back in once everyone else has left, and quietly urges Michelle to continue with her tale.
And so, we return to the woods of Beckon Falls ...
Following the night of Sophia's strange behaviour, the group of friends awake to discover no sign of Sophia - other than a clump of her hair. They determine to split into groups of two and search for her in the surrounding woods. Nate and Sarah find Sophia in the woods, where she's busy digging up a keepsake box with Abigail's name on it. Inside is book with spells written in Olde English. Sophia is freezing cold to the touch and deathly pale. Taken back to the house, Michelle puts her shivering friend to bed. When Sophia suddenly screams out loud in a demonic tone, Michelle rather sagely turns to Sarah and says "we need to get the Hell out of here".
Unfortunately, no-one else in the house receives this memo as they're all too busy partying downstairs. The verdict of the majority is that Sophia is simply "losing her mind". That opinion is due to be reconsidered, though, once the murders begin ...
Back in hospital, will Henderson believe Michelle's claims that Sophia became possessed by the spirit of a 17th Century witch, and was subsequently responsible for slaughtering their chums? And is Michelle right to fear that Sophia is in her midst as a malevolent force in the hospital, ready to kill some more?
REAWAKENED is directed by Jose Altonaga, who also co-wrote the screenplay with long-time pal Remy MacKenzie. This pair also acted as casting assistants on 1985's famously awful EVILS OF THE NIGHT - and have rarely dipped their toes into the world of filmmaking since. Hmm, could these be any indication as to the quality of REAWAKENED ...?
Well, let's start from the beginning. I quite enjoyed the hammy opening titles sequence, a colourfully animated montage set evil keyboard strains. It felt like a crimson-hued, slightly comic bookish Satanic variation on SE7EN's famous opening credits.
Shot on location in Camarillo, California, REAWAKENED benefits immediately from beautiful outdoor locations and Gary Bacon's handsome cinematography. Although clearly shot with limited means these well-captured rural landscapes and attractive HD photography, along with some efficient editing, help the film rise above the usual aesthetical trappings of micro-budget fare.
The same can't be said for the special effects. Traci Petraglia's practical FX work wisely sticks to moderately splashy stabbings for the most part, but whenever things get more ambitious and the use of CGI is required to pull off, say, an exploding head gag or the sight of a bullet flying through the air in slow-motion ... well, the results are sadly terrible.
Most of the film's action takes place in the woods, and the main cast are uniformly young and hot. Judging by the wildly fluctuating quality of performances across the board, everyone was cast solely on the basis of their looks. Brass, Albers and Dabier hold their own quite well; the rest of the cast are categorically so-so.
Of course, a so-so actor is going to struggle if the script they're reading from isn't great. And sadly, for our young thespians, REAWAKENED is no stunning piece of literature. It follows a well-trodden path so closely that it swiftly becomes predictable at every turn, throwing in every trope of demonic possession flicks and never once exhibiting the guts or imagination to attempt to subvert such conventions. The wraparound story seems to be lifted right out of James C Wasson's Bigfoot nasty NIGHT OF THE DEMON, even down to the bare room which masquerades as a hospital room, looking very cheap in the process.
REAWAKENED was filmed in 2016 but is finding a release now. This type of gap between conception and public reveal generally raises alarm bells. A troubled production? A negative preview screening? A dissatisfied director? I can't speak for the reason behind REAWAKENED's delay in reaching the point of distribution, but any of the above wouldn't surprise me.
I mean, it's not an unmitigated disaster. I've highlighted its stronger points above. But originality, involving drama, convincing performances, a nuanced screenplay and impressive FX work are not among them. Oh, it's not remotely scary either.
We were sent an online screener link for REAWAKENED. This presented the film uncut (94 minutes and 16 seconds long) in a clean, sharp transfer which appeared to respect the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. Picture quality was clear, colourful and detailed; the English stereo audio provided was also a good proposition.
REAWAKENED is available On Demand across several online platforms now courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Wild Eye Releasing|