“Waking Karma” is the type of small film you root for even when it fails to dwell as much as its potential. There’s so much that does not fairly work, however you’ll be able to inform by the robust performances and the manufacturing’s total sincerity that everybody concerned hoped to create one thing memorable; the missteps are primarily about what the movie decides to emphasise.
Co-directed by Carlos Montaner and Liz Fania Werner (who additionally wrote the script), “Waking Karma” focuses on its title character, Karma (Hannah Christine Shetler), the daughter of a cult chief named Paul (Michael Madsen) who murdered 11 folks. Karma’s mom Sunny (Kimberly Alexander) escaped from Paul’s compound years in the past and has succeeded in making a life other than it, although the trauma of that have continues to have an effect on her and her solely youngster. They have to exist off-the-grid as a result of they’re afraid the cult will discover them and drag them again to hell.
The setup has some superficial similarities to a lot better “fugitive household” thrillers just like the basic “Working on Empty,” wherein the burden of dwelling a secret life worsens adolescence, which isn’t a carefree interval even for younger folks in a steady residence. Karma and Sunny have considerate, delicate exchanges within the first part, however then Paul exhibits up wanting and performing like a dollar-store model of Robert Mitchum’s preacher character in “Evening of the Hunter,” and Madsen begins doing his smirking, raspy voiced, Satanic lizard-man factor (which, whereas too acquainted, is at all times efficient, and is chill-inducing right here). “Waking Karma” turns into an inevitable countdown to a confrontation wherein mom or daughter (or each, or neither) will face off towards Paul, and spark catharsis or tragedy.
“Waking Karma” makes probably the most of its minimal finances by enjoying with viewer’s perceptions of what is actual, particularly within the opening sequence, a flashback that exhibits how “normal” a homicidal cult can appear if you’ve been dwelling in the midst of it, and in hallucinatory/nightmare scenes involving an insect masks worn by the cult’s Chosen One. The complete forged is impressively committed and understated (aside from Madsen, who—like Dennis Hopper again within the day—is principally referred to as upon to rattle cages and placed on a present). Shetler specifically is sort of a discover. She has a formidable vary protecting every little thing she’s requested to do right here, from horror movie histrionics to home drama-style confrontations with a tough reality to motion heroine resourcefulness.
The largest problem right here is the filmmaking, which is never greater than serviceable and generally lower than that. Oddly, for a film with such built-in potential for nightmarish magnificence and unsettling ambiance, the lighting and compositions are virtually solely unmemorable save for just a few nightmare bits. And the modifying is haphazard, to the purpose the place you begin to surprise if a number of the actors performing in scenes constructed of alternating close-ups have been ever in the identical room on the similar time. “Waking Karma” appears like a project that needed to be rescued, although from what, an outsider cannot say.