Year:  2023

Director:  Steve Craig, Brian Farmer

Release:  August 18, 2023

Distributor: Terror Films

Running time: 72 minutes

Worth: $9.00
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Shelley Regner, Diane Franklin, Jamison Newlander, Leon Guerrero, David Naughton

… feels incomplete.

According to various sources, a human adult supposedly needs between 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep to lead a healthy life. Imagine that? In this day and age, with 24 hour news cycles, the internet and social media, chances of that would be a fine thing. In Waking Nightmare, directed by Steve Craig (Killer Waves) and Brian Farmer (Blue Call), our hero Jordan has to contend with more than just being overcaffeinated when it comes to getting a full night’s sleep.

Played by Shelley Regner (Pitch Perfect), Jordan has returned to her hometown after an extended period away, with hopes of regaining a sense of normality. Of course, the catch is – part of that normality means moving back in with overcautious mum, Danielle (Diane Franklin, Better Off Dead), and secret-stoner-dad, Jamison Newlander (The Lost Boys). But hey, least she’s got her punk best friend, Zoey (Kelly Leon Guerrero), to support her when she needs it.

All things considered, Jordan’s life seems to be on the straight and narrow. If only she wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night having horrific nightmares about her friend Jamie, who appears to have died in mysterious circumstances. Her night terrors become too much and it’s not long before mum packs her off to get something stronger than chamomile tea from Doctor Doolin (David Naughton, An American Werewolf in London).

It’s from here that Jordan’s misfortunes start to pile up like horrific Jenga. When our hero tries to catch some shuteye, all the evidence in the morning seems to suggest that she’s a sleepwalking murderer with her first victim being an exceptionally grim pervert. Has Jordan really been slicing and dicing when she’s zonked out, or is there something much bigger at play? The answer is a resounding maybe.

Sure, economy of storytelling can be a virtue; who doesn’t love a short, sharp shock as an antidote to the 3+ hour behemoths out there in the multiplexes. However, when all’s said and done, this just feels incomplete. Sub plots are dropped and a third act revelation just seems to happen, with the audience left to ask an unanswered ‘and then what?’ before the credits roll.

Not to say that the directors are sitting on their laurels when it comes to the film, with Waking Nightmare showing off some neat consciousness-expanding visuals; particularly when Jordan is lying in bed starting at her TV. All of this suggests that Jordan is potentially tuning in and dropping out, before spilling the claret. Additionally, everyone on board is giving it their all with none of the cast phoning it in.

Overall, there’s a nagging feeling that Waking Nightmare could have done with an extra ten minutes or so to stretch its legs before reaching the finishing line.