WAKE UP (Sydney FF 2024) – Review by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

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“You should see it in a cinema” has become something of a hollow suggestion in this day and age of streaming dominance, and yet in the case of Wake Up it remains emphatically true. A high octane thrill ride with all the generic trappings of the slasher film but a thematic heart that beats with pure activist intent, Wake Up is the kind of film that demands hooting, hollering and other loudly vocalized responses, ideally from an audience in a united front rather than lone sofa-dwellers or bus phone-watchers.

The film follows a group of young eco-warriors, an activist group who hatch a careful plan to take over an Ikea-like homewares warehouse store in a bid to garner public awareness of their cause in the plight against cheap, disposable consumer goods. Like the best slasher films, there are of course different personalities, different interpersonal relationships, different motivations and different responses to that omnipresent question, “do they deserve to die?”. One by one, a disgruntled, recently fired security guard decides to protect the store in one last final show of professional loyalty, the setting affording itself to a variety of creative, grizzly murder vignettes.

It’s all here – a seemingly all-powerful, indestructible killer, possible final girls, and unambiguously unlikable characters we secretly just can’t wait to see get killed off. The team behind the filmmaking moniker RKSS – François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell – were the brains trust behind previous cult favourites Turbo Kid (2015) and Summer of 84 (2018), and with Wake Up they show no sign of losing their grip on making fun, thoughtful genre films. It may not exactly reinvent the wheel, but no one can doubt the dedication to their craft and the undisguised glee this team takes in their approach to making genre movies that demand to be experienced in a cinema, shouting, screaming and scoffing popcorn with a big group of like-minded others.

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Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is a multi-award-winning film critic and author who has published nine books on cult, horror and exploitation cinema with an emphasis on gender politics, including the 2020 book ‘1000 Women in Horror, 1898-2018’ which was included on Esquire Magazine’s list of the best 125 books written about Hollywood. Alexandra is a contributing editor at Film International, a columnist at Fangoria, an Adjunct Professor at Deakin University, and a member of the advisory board of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies (LA, NYC, London).