Sony // 2009 // 84 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // October 15th, 2010
Adventures of a reluctant zombie.
Maybe I've been doing this too long. In my years writing for DVD Verdict, I've amassed just over 300 reviews (which is nothing in the grand scheme of things; some of my prolific colleagues here have surpassed 1,000). It can be difficult to find a new way to approach a movie 300 times over again, particularly a movie as dull and unambitious as Woke Up Dead. I find myself at a loss for words -- not because it's so bad, but because it isn't anything. It's just something that passed before my eyes for 80 minutes, inspiring no reaction. It's days like this where I really feel the 300 reviews that came before this one.
Originally appearing as a web series on Crackle.com, Woke Up Dead tells the story of Drex Green (Jon Heder, Blades of Glory), a twentysomething who wakes up in the bathtub one morning, missing a heartbeat and apparently having drowned. He hooks up with a med student named Cassie (Krysten Ritter, She's Out of My League) and his best friend, an obnoxious amateur filmmaker named Matt (Josh Gad, The Rocker) to discover what's happening to him as he develops a taste for brains (cow's brains, at least) and gradually discovers new superpowers and a possible stalker who may be in the same undead boat.
What exactly is Woke Up Dead supposed to be? A comedy about a zombie? I guess so, on paper. Except that there's not a single funny moment in the whole thing. I don't mean that there are attempts at humor that fall short; I mean that there aren't even attempts at humor. The movie doesn't even play fair by zombie rules: except for Drex's hunger for brains, there's nothing traditionally "zombie" about the character's plight in Woke Up Dead. Because it originally appeared online in 22 four-minute installments, there's a constant need to keep introducing new developments and twisting the story in new directions. That's great when you want someone to come back a week later to watch a new four-minute episode, but not so much when you're attempting to create a cohesive feature film. The result here is that the story keeps piling on twists and plot to no end and becomes incredibly, well, episodic. The experiment does not work.
The 22 episodes of Woke Up Dead have been (barely) streamlined into a single, continuous narrative for the release on DVD. The film, presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, looks cheap and flat, quickly giving away its low-budget roots. The same goes for the 5.1 audio track, which is serviceable (if a little on the quite side), but features no dynamic range and no dimensionality -- it's tinny and hollow and entirely front-and-center focused. There are a boatload of short featurettes and behind-the-scenes pieces which may be of interest to fans of the show (and I know there have to be some): "The Making of Woke Up Dead," "Behind the Scenes of Woke Up Dead," "Creators of Woke Up Dead," "Bullet Makeup," "Zombies!," "The Characters," "Time for Some Puke!," "On the Set of Woke Up Dead," and "Jon Had a Baby!" Also included a collection of fake blog entries from the Matt character, plus an interview with star Jon Heder and the film's trailer, plus several trailers for additional Sony titles.
There's just nothing to say about Woke Up Dead. It doesn't work as comedy or as horror. It barely works as a vehicle for star Jon Heder, whose appeal has eluded me since he first burst on the scene in Napoleon Dynamite. It's destined to quickly be absorbed into the 300-plus reviews I've managed to write. It's the kind of film that I find myself watching and writing about only because I am required to, and one that will be forgotten the moment I hit my last keystroke. And there it is.
Woke up dumb.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 84 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site