Awakened: Film Review
Joycelyn Engle, Arno Malarone
Christopher M. Capwell, Joycelyn Engle
Steven Bauer, Julieanne Michelle, John Savage, Edward Furlong, Sally Kirkland
A troubled young woman attempts to solve the mystery of her mother's death in this supernatural thriller.
That the character credits for Awakened include “Man with the Fedora Hat” and “Johansson’s beautiful embalmed body” is but one sign of the silliness of this supernatural psychological thriller co-directed by Joycelyn Engle and Arno Malarone. This low-rent, convoluted tale about a young woman returning home to solve the mystery of her mother’s violent death is amateurish to the extreme, and the fact that its cast includes such well-known actors as John Savage, Steven Bauer, Sally Kirkland and Edward Furlong indicates how difficult it is for even veteran performers to find decent roles.
The comprehension-defying storyline centers on deeply troubled 22-year-old Samantha (Julianne Michelle), who returns to her hometown 14 years after the death of her mother in a violent incident that she witnessed but apparently since has blocked out. Having spent the intervening years living with abusive foster families as well as on her own, Samantha inexplicably moves back in with her recovering alcoholic dad despite her conviction that he was the killer.
Taking a job at a funeral home run by solicitous family friend Lucas (Bauer) — hence the aforementioned “embalmed body,” as she has an unfortunate tendency to wander throughout the mortuary — Samantha looks for answers about her mother’s death from Lucas and others, including her newly discovered institutionalized uncle (Furlong) and an old friend (Kirkland) of her mother’s. Her return is less than warmly greeted, especially by Lucas’ shady, mob-connected business partner (Stelio Savante) who’s intent on stopping her.
The filmmakers frequently inject supernatural elements into the proceedings, from the mother’s ghostly reappearances to a mysterious fedora-wearing man who seems to have a connection to the proceedings. There also are numerous sepia-toned flashbacks to Samantha’s childhood that presumably are intended to provide clues to the mystery but mostly have the effect of elongating the already overlong film’s running time.
While Bauer and Savage deliver typically solid performances, the remaining members of the ensemble ham it up unmercifully, and the inexpressive Michelle mainly wanders through the film as if in a daze. Further undermining the film’s impact are its flat visuals and choppy editing as well as the oppressive, soap opera-style musical score. By the time it delivers its would-be shocking surprise ending — hint: Samantha sees dead people -- Awakened long will have put most viewers to sleep.
Opens Friday, March 21 (Supernova Media)
Cast: Steven Bauer, Julianne Michelle, John Savage, Edward Furlong, Sally Kirkland, Erin Gerasimovich, Stelio Savante
Directors: Joycelyn Engle, Arno Malarone
Screenwriters: Christopher M. Capwell, Joycelyn Engle
Producers: Joycelyn Engle, Julianne Michelle
Executive producers: Joseph Di Palma, Brian Hehling
Director of photography: John Schmidt
Editor: Rob Weber
Production designer: Jane Vezdeneva
Composer: Kenneth Lampl
Not rated, 111 min.