SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | March 27, 2010
Director: Chad Feehan
Writer: Chad Feehan
Starring: Josh Stewart, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Chris Browning, Angela Featherstone, Afemo Omilami, Trevor Morgan, Christopher Gessner, Robert Maxhimer, Jeannetta Arnette, Grainger Hines
Paul (Josh Stewart) and Adrienne (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) are on a road trip to Los Angeles for one of Paul’s old fraternity brothers’ wedding. It has been a long drive across the barren desert and Adrienne is getting frisky. Adrienne’s friskiness distracts Paul and causes him to lose control of the SUV. Paul realizes that he is too tired and Adrienne is too horny – and both of them are too freaked out from that near death experience – to continue any further along the highway.
They discover Roy’s Motel and Cafe, which is eerily void of humanity – that is except for Frank (Chris Browning), the incredibly creepy inn keeper. The only way this horror show would have been any more obvious is if this place was called The Overlook Hotel or The Bates Motel. Ah, what are you worried about? It will be ok out here in the desert all alone with some crazy innkeeper… Paul and Adrienne will just check into their room (the room number probably has some great significance, by the way), lock the door, make sweet love, and everything will be just fine. Just fine…
Ok, maybe not. Paul just can’t get it up – and soon he and Adrienne are fighting like dogs. Paul dutifully escapes to the hotel diner and Adrienne needs a cold shower. Frank is Paul’s waiter and the jukebox won’t quit playing “Devil in His Heart” (written by Richard Drapkin, performed by The Donays) – yet another blatant clue to get out of Dodge! – but Paul does not get the hint and he stays long enough to eat some of Frank’s homemade pie and have an eerie discussion with a man (Afemo Omilami, who is credited quite literally as “The Man”) who seems to know an awful lot about Paul. For the rest of the night, Paul is haunted by the The Man’s message – the need for repentance for a dirty deed that Paul had done in his past, a dark secret that Adrienne knows nothing about. (Luckily for Paul, it was videotaped!) Paul and Adrienne are essentially stuck in this metaphoric Limbo until whenever Paul will be able to confront the shameful sins of his past.
Interspersed throughout the aforementioned scenes, there is a somewhat parallel narrative of Frank and his wife, Sandy (Angela Featherstone). At first these scenes play like some strange Lynchian alternate reality – mainly because Frank has a completely different job altogether (an overnight security guard for a retail store) – but eventually we learn that these scenes are part of a long flashback leading up to the fateful moment that delivered Frank and Sandy to Roy’s Motel.
All in all, this is one of those movies (like Shutter Island) that are nearly impossible to write a worthwhile review without revealing spoilers. Some of the thrills are thrilling and some of the plot twists twist perfectly well, but there are also a few too many coincidences that seem a bit lazy on the part of the script. Several directorial decisions throughout Wake really irked me. For example, writer-director Chad Feehan – on multiple occasions (the security video, the frat party video) – opted to disregard any resemblance of realism in the name of getting more cinematic camera angles. And unfortunately, the final reveal is really heavy-handed; but Wake is still a much more intelligent and complex thriller than most of the other thrillers being released these days. Nonetheless, Chris Browning’s performance is quite amazing – and is reason enough to give Wake a gander.
Feehan mentioned prior to the SXSW screening that there were three key references to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, but at least to my eyes the entire film was in homage to The Shining and Psycho. Of course Wake pales in comparison to both cinematic masterpieces, but I definitely “got” what he was attempting to do.