[Review] Awake [MidWest WeirdFest]: From Crop Circles to Cattle Mutilations, This Sci-Fi Chiller Has It All

Brother-and-sister filmmaking team Francesco Paolo Cordaro and Andrea Cordaro have basically condensed mid-to-late 20th century American extraterrestrial mythology into a 17-minute nutshell with their terrific science fiction/horror short Awake (2023). It’s both a primer and a crash course on everything from cattle mutilation to Men in Black, and far beyond.

Betty (Megan Greener) and John (Mark Thomas McKen) are a married couple who own a farm. As John finds their cornfield trampled in places, Betty discovers that yet another of their cows have been sliced up. Matters are only going to get worse for the couple, as nighttime brings on startling terrors of its own.

The Cordaro siblings, working from a screenplay written by Francesco, have crafted a wild, chilling ride. Its classic Americana setting initially offers a 1950s vibe but the decades don’t seem to matter much as  mysterious forces come into play and viewers are taken for a ride through the years, including a nearly word-for-word reenactment of one of the most famous calls to legendary late night radio host Art Bell’s Coast to Coast program. 

The set designs, from the rural farm and the couple’s house to the eerie environment in which Betty finds herself, are all well rendered. Leroy Farrell’s cinematography beautifully captures the creepy proceedings.

Anyone who considers themselves an aficionado of extraterrestrial fright-fare would be well advised to seek out Awake as it makes its way through the film festival circuit. The film won MidWest WeirdFest’s Best Sci-Fi Short award, and quite deservedly so.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Awake screened as part of MidWest WeirdFest, which took place in Eau Claire, Wisconsin from March 3–5, 2023. 

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.