A Killer Slices And Dices Gen Z’ers [Fantastic Fest 2023]

There’s an enjoyable degree of location-based utilization in “Wake Up,” since it takes place in a home restoration mecca. Both the frantic teenagers with geometric animal masks and monstrously burly hunter Kevin use available materials to fasten weapons or set traps. Kitchen utensils, spring-loaded dressers, and sharp barstool legs become implements of death, versus the automatic paintball guns the amateur TikTok activists wield. There’s a poignant contrast between generations: the young adults beg for lessened consequences while Kevin executes unlawful justice, suggesting how either are unfortunate products of their systems.

Don’t get me wrong, though. What happens to the pro-animal, anti-corporate anarchists is undeserved and overly violent. What makes “Wake Up” so terrifying is the look on these mere children’s faces as they stare death in the face, as represented by one of those big-game hunters who seek dominant fantasies through animal brutality. The whimpering, pleading, and assassinations are so distressingly effective, and yet “Wake Up” still features enjoyable breaths of fresh air like victims doused in fluorescent goo navigating pitch-black rooms where their predator lurks. RKSS brings their signature synth-bumping soundtracks and infectious energy that keeps adrenaline higher, and these bursts of originality help “Wake Up” elevate above its straightforward plot.

Let’s make one thing clear — your appreciation of “Wake Up” will be tied to your tolerance for senseless violence executed out of blind rage. Not much storytelling development matters during an opening that teases romantic awkwardness between punks still comfortable enough to behave like invincible youths. It’s one of those movies about a series of catastrophic events that don’t pity lousy luck, but those backstory events aren’t a point of emphasis. You’re here for the cat-and-mouse game, and the script sometimes acts like that to a detriment. Characters aren’t richly defined beyond their blood-red eyes after nearly suffocating, or how they squeal bloody murder when stabbed in the stomach by makeshift spears. If you require more justification, seek it elsewhere.

“Wake Up” makes its impression like a candy bar with a razor blade at its core. It’s a sweet little treat for action-horror fans that hurts so good, as long as you’re in the mood for visually traumatic, hopeless vibes. Turlough Convery plays an imposing and seethingly unhinged killer with slasher villain emphasis, coaxing pure fear out of his supporting castmates as they see him bounding down another aisle at full speed. Perhaps not the best representation of the messages it’s selling, but certainly an exceptional example of the violence it creates.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

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