26 May 2024
Read Bradley Hadcroft's review of WAKE UP from Pigeon Shrine Glasgow FIlm Festival 2024

Pigeon Shrine Frightfest Glasgow – Film Review – Wake Up (2023)

Read Bradley Hadcroft's review of WAKE UP from Pigeon Shrine Glasgow FIlm Festival 2024

This energetic satirical slasher from the talented RKSS collective wrings occasional moments of sadistic brilliance from its tired  Most Dangerous Game premise.

A group of Gen Z Insta activists in origami animal masks target a thinly veiled version of IKEA and fall foul of a blood-crazed nightwatchman who’s an expert in primitive hunting methods.

I’m not quite sure why RKSS have chosen IKEA as the template for their spritely shocker, they are well on the way to reaching 100% renewable or recycled materials by 2030, but that being said, the activists that double as murder fodder do not exactly convince as highly researched ethical champions.

Refreshingly, Wake Up does not hold its campaigners up as impeccable moral guardians, focusing instead on petty internal hierarchies and a desire for social media kudos. We are presented with a group of youngsters who are just as likely to kick off a frozen meatball fight or rollerskating paintball match as splatter animal blood on a bathroom installation.

It is an acerbic take on the trend for social media stunts as monetised protest tools and humanises the poor victims far more than any pious tubthumping. When the time comes for them to be sliced up and tortured, we empathise with them for their youthful naivety rather than their anarchic clickbait courage.

Burly security guard Kevin, played with zero-tolerance belligerence by the excellent Turlough Convery, doesn’t give two flat-packed shits about the Amazon rainforest or Tiktok followers. He daydreams about his precious hobby time in the wilderness whittling crossbows and mudding up like Arnie in Predator, complete with primordial howling.

When conflict ensues, Kevin’s default setting is batshit and he blossoms from a brooding backwoods Bear Grylls into a psychotic hardware aisle MacGyver with serious SAW fanboy issues.

Those familiar with the collectives’ previous work such, as Turbo Kid and Summer of ’84 will know they are not shy of jolting tonal shifts and their latest outing is, to a lesser degree, no exception. You may notice that the activists are wielding paintball guns in the picture above, but fear not, the weaponry soon upgrades to sticky stabby.

At times, Wake Up feels like a stop-gap project on the way to a more ambitious movie. Its single location feels restrictive and the worldbuilding is as scant as the protagonist’s backstories, however, it’s a slasher picture and you could argue it’s just being true to its roots.

Some artful touches are to be enjoyed, exemplified by the permanent red eye of a near-strangled-to-death character and the race against time to construct a cabinet with inevitable ready-to-assemble befuddlement. The real showstopper though, is a truly awesome sequence involving luminous paint. Superbly creative and genuinely terrifying, it’s as good a murder set piece as any horror movie with 100 times the budget.

For me, this canny Canadian collective is at its best when it jettisons culty posturing and generic butchery in favour of nuanced character development and inventive flourishes. Having said that, slasher fans won’t be disappointed with either the familiar tropes or the lively body count.

Wake Up even finds the energy for a closing salvo of satire that is as utterly improbable as it is marvellously morbid.


Glasgow Frightfest / Canada, 2023 / Turlough Convery, Benny O. Arthur, Jacqueline Moré / Dir: François Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell / Studio Canal / 18

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