The Awakening (2006) – By Duane L. Martin

 Mike Conway’s film Terrarrium was one of my earlier reviews here on Rogue Cinema, and he was one of my first interviews as well. Since then, he’s always been awesome to me any time I needed anything, and even called in and co-hosted a streaming radio broadcast I once tried out here in the magazine. In every sense of the word, Mike is just an outstanding guy. Naturally when he offered to send me a copy of his new film, The Awakening, to review, I jumped on it like a bum on a bologna sandwich. I knew from Mike’s previous film what a great filmmaker he was, and I couldn’t wait to find out what he did with this one. I wasn’t disappointed.

The Awakening is the story of a government scientist named David Andrade (Mike Conway) who’s wife Lara (Tamra Ericson Frame) is dying of bone and pancreatic cancer. She’s in an incredble amount of pain, and he’s just found out that she only has about six months to live. Fortunately, there is hope for her. A research experiment he’s been working on for the government may hold the key to curing her of the disease, but there’s one catch. It’s not approved for testing on humans. Undaunted by legalities, he sneaks her onto the base and injects her with some sort of a thick yellow serum and then subjects her to a radiation treatment. She’s initially weak after the treatment, but the next day, she wakes up and is completely free of the disease that was about to take her life.

Thinking that everything was cool, they went about trying to get their lives back to normal. Soon however, Lara started to change. Her skin and bone density increased dramatically, as did her strength, speed, hearing, and pretty much every ability you could possibly have. She became super-human. Unfortunately, she also became extremely mentally unbalanced due to the serotonin levels in her brain fluctuating wildly. Her behavior became erratic. She began to go out on the streets looking for scumbags to mess up and or kill. Eventually, when confronted by the cops, she killed them too, and stopped caring who she killed. David wanted desperately to help her, but she turned him away at every attempt and even left him and their relationship, believing that their marriage didn’t matter anymore now that she was so powerful.

Eventually, a shadow operation within the government took over the base where David worked and killed a few of the base personnell. There’s a lot of back and forth at that point with the real commander of the base and one of his loyal soldiers going in to take out the shadow ops guys and to put a stop to the whole program. See, David thought he was working on a cure for cancer, but what it really was was a program to create super-soldiers, and all the previous scientists had met with unfortunate "accidents" that had silenced them forever. Now it’s up to David and the soldiers to re-claim the base, take out the shadow-ops guys, destroy all the research (after he makes a copy for himself) and to try to save his wife from the shadow ops guys that want everyone dead.

This film really looks like a Mike Conway film. After watching the documentary on how he made his second feature film, Terrarium, I spotted all sorts of things that were typical "Mike Conway". I even noted that the scenes of them at home were shot at his own real life house. Then there was the military base, and knowing how he did the set designs and such for his previous film, I had a bit more insight into how the sets were built and how everything was set up. It actually made the film even more interesting being able to spot various things here and there that were familiar in his style.

The effects in this film were great. All the super powers Lara used were all really well done. A few times she flips cars over, bends bars and light poles, knocks people’s heads off, throws bullets at cops, runs super fast, etc… One of my favorite effects was when she actually ripped one of the shadow ops guys in half. That was awesome! Where Mike’s film Terrarium was really awesome, this film was yet another step forward for him, not only as a film maker, but as an actor as well. He had a part Terrarium, though he hadn’t intended on being in it at all. In this one, he was basically the main character next to his wife. His acting was really good throughout the film, as was everyone’s. Tamra Ericson Frame did a superb job acting unbalanced and psychotic, and Timothy S. Daley makes his return in this film as the C.O. of the base who helps out David. You may remember Tim Daley from his role as Capt. Carl Halsey in Terrarium. Seems like no matter how good of an actor this guy is, he just can’t seem to get a promotion.

The editing and pacing of this film were both extremely well done. The story moved along nicely and there weren’t really any slow spots or spots that would kinda make you lose interest. I did spot a couple of small mistakes here and there in the film, one with continuity and one with something that happened in the story, but those were minor and most people wouldn’t notice them at all.

Overall this was a really solid film with a great story and some really great performances. It was really nice to see Mike step back into an acting role, because I think he’s probably a lot better at it than he may think he is. It was also nice to see Mike’s wife Sheila in a small part as well as a mugging victim. She’s a great actress in her own right and I was sorry that she didn’t have a bigger part in the film. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of her in Mike’s next film.

The DVD also includes a documentary about the making of the film, and is available for sale on the film’s website. I would highly recommend you head on over and pick yourself up a copy, as you’ll not only get a really entertaining film, but you’ll be helping to support a great independent film maker and a super nice guy as well. You can find out more about the film and grab yourself a copy by heading over to the film’s website at http://www.theawakeningmovie.com. Trust me, you’ll enjoy it. There’s guns, hot women, blood, violence and super powers. How could you not!