Any minute you spend with this shonky thriller is likely to feel about 60 seconds too long: gone for ever, never to be clawed back. Set in the American south, it’s a noirish murder mystery – even though the whodunnit is let out of the bag after half an hour. What follows is a series of wildly implausible and shockingly acted plot twists as one upstanding citizen after another reveals themselves to be a homicidal monster.
Cole Hauser plays stockbroker Russ, who has returned to the small town where he grew up after making a packet in the big city. But Russ’s name is mud when half the town sinks their life savings in a dud investment. Then he starts getting threatening calls: “Where will you be the minute you wake up dead?” The only person who doesn’t hate Russ is his nextdoor neighbour Delaine (Jaimie Alexander), a waitress whose heavy black eyeliner is a dead giveaway that she’s trouble. When her father is shot dead, everyone assumes Russ is the target and that the killers got the wrong house.
Of course, it’s more complicated than that, though not much. Instead of getting knotty, the script – co-written by director Michael Mailer (son of Norman) and Timothy Holland – gets preposterous. As the bodies pile up it’s not so much whodunnit as a who-didn’t-do-it.
The performances add to the pain. Half the actors speak their lines as if they’ve taken a triple-dose of sleeping pills; the rest ham it up like year 8s cast as the baddies in a school play. The exception is Morgan Freeman as the town’s sheriff, giving good menace. Still, there’s not a flash of excitement or fun to make any of this remotely entertaining. After sitting through 90 minutes you might find yourself praying for the end.
• The Minute You Wake Up Dead is released on 9 January on digital platforms.