The HoloFiles

Awake: Hayden Christensen’s Underrated Horror Gem

By George Bate

Hayden Christensen is best known for his role as Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but there are a number of hidden gems in his filmography worthy of attention. One of these gems is Awake, a psychological thriller / horror film that was released in 2007 and co-starred Jessica Alba and Terrence Howard.

Awake follows a young billionaire named Clay Beresford, Jr. (played by Hayden Christensen) and his partner Sam Lockwood (played by Jessica Alba). Clay suffers from a heart condition and requires a heart transplant, which serves as the jumping off point for the film. While undergoing heart surgery, Clay experiences anesthesia awareness, a rare condition in which patients regain consciousness while under general anesthetic during surgical procedures.

The truly horrifying premise comes from the mind of writer/director Joby Harold. Primarily a producer, Harold also wrote Army of the Dead and the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series. To this date, Awake remains Harold’s sole directorial credit, which is a shame considering how exciting and nerve-racking the film is.

Unfortunately, critical reception wasn’t as friendly. The film earned a 24% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with a critic consensus stating, “Awake has an interesting premise but would have benefited from tighter performances and more efficient direction and editing.”

While Awake is far from a perfect film, it’s definitely worth the watch for thriller, horror , and Hayden Christensen fans alike. Awake is anchored by a classic horror premise and keeps the suspense going with a series of twists and turns. This isn’t a horror film that relies on bloodshed and gore, but, rather, a more cerebral experience that terrifies without reliance on visuals.

The film is also a showcase for the underrated talents of Hayden Christensen. The actor’s work in the Star Wars prequels has been met with newfound praise (and rightfully so), but his filmography includes a number of overlooked performances. Christensen was nominated for a Golden Globe his role in Life as a House and delivered an unnerving performance in 2003’s Shattered Glass as a journalist prone to plagiarism. Awake represents another unexpected turn in Christensen’s filmography as he takes on the role of an empathic and terrified lead character.

Awake is by no means the perfect movie, but was met with some arguably harsh criticism upon its release. Similar to how Christensen’s prequel trilogy films have been positively reappraised in recent years, it’s possible that Awake will also undergo similar reevaluation.

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