WAKING KARMA Review: Tepid Attempts to Thrill in an Ultimately Unengaging Thriller

Editor, News; Toronto, Canada (@Mack_SAnarchy)
WAKING KARMA Review: Tepid Attempts to Thrill in an Ultimately Unengaging Thriller
On Karma’s seventeenth birthday her mom, Sunny, discovers that the father of her child, a dangerous and murderous cult leader named Paul, is coming to collect his daughter for a rite of passage ritual. Mother and daughter flee to the remote compound of other former cult members, Butch and Priscilla. But there’s nothing like the grim determination of a cult leader and Paul is hot on their heels. He and his henchman Wendell break into the compound and subject Karma to a series of psychological trials meant to prepare her for this ritual. 
Waking Karma is the feature film debut of Liz Fania Werner and Carlos Montaner’s second film (after a documentary in 2010) is an attempt to create a thrilling narrative out of a real life situation Werner found themselves in when a family member joined a religious sect that ran with a philosophy of regressive views on gender roles and sexuality. So, basically, any organized or ramshackled religion out there?
We’re just going to get this off our chests. This film has issues. Predominantly there is an issue here with overall execution and direction that makes it largely incapable of being fully invested in Karma’s plight as the story develops. 
At first it was just little things at first. For example, there is this weird spot of time displacement that happens when Paul and Wendell break into Butch and Priscilla’s compound. Between Paul confronting his daughter and Butch and Priscilla attempting to flee their home it just feels out of order and takes longer than it should when you’re running away from something dangerous. Small conversations happen in between shots of Butch and Priscilla trying to escape. Wait, are they still trying to leave the house, minutes later? That detracts from any urgency we’re supposed to feel at the moment. 
Also, dumb things like when Paul dares Karma to run away she basically turns and runs right into Wendell’s arms. Nothing but free space to go anywhere else but she beelines right to the henchman. Also, for someone who spends a fair amount of time coming out of unconsciousness there are no residual effects from injections and needles, yet the protein smoothie Karma has once she and her mom have arrived at the compound makes her feel queasy and suspicious of their hosts. This girl has been drugged and knocked out a minimum of three times in the film but it’s the smoothie that has an ill effect on her. And the story goes out of its way to question if the smoothie is safe or not then drops it promptly once the shit hits the fan. Sorry, what?
Everyone’s giving it the old college try here, attempting to add gravitas with every word. Madsen is as reliable as you would expect in his delivery and performance; vintage Madsen if you will. Admittedly we think Hannah Christine Shetler as Karma, Kimberly Alexander as Sunny, even Bradley Fisher as Butch, are good for the roles they’ve been given - specifically Alexander. If the atmosphere and presentation were matching their performances we would be having a wholly different conversation. 
Waking Karma is desperately missing prompts to trigger an emotional reaction to what is happening on screen; primarily the absence of musical cues is a big one we noticed. Waking Karma is strangely disjointed and unengaging as to not evoke an emotional or fearful response to what is happening to Karma but rather one of frustration and distraction. The horror is kept ambiguous or off camera which is a shame because we deserve some kind of reward for our patience here and left with nothing but disappointment. The execution makes this all feel like we were watching a dress rehearsal before being privy to a final film. 
Waking Karma is now available on North American VOD
Screen Anarchy logo
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here to report it, or see our DMCA policy.
Carlos MontanerLiz Fania WernerMichael MadsenHannah Christine ShetlerKimberly AlexanderHorrorThriller

Around the Internet