Low-resolution screener. Not for distribution.
SAHR ALI as Charmaine
BENTON GREENE as the Man
BUENA BATISTE WEBBER as the Demon
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“The next time you sleep, it’s gon’ be your wake...”
A repressed woman does away with her domineering father, freeing herself to pursue her heart’s desire. Using a local folk magic called “root work”, she conjures a demon to aid her in creating the man of her dreams. However, she soon finds herself in a waking nightmare.
As the sun sets on a small 1930s town in rural eastern North Carolina, a gravedigger solemnlydisplaces the earth as the townsfolk gather for a wake in the house of recently deceased Ezra Giles, whose body lies in a casket at the front of the living room. From dusk to dawn, they will keep vigil over the body, singing and praying for its soul to make a peaceful transition to the other side. The church ushers interrupt their gossiping long enough to express condolences and pity for Ezra’s lone survivor, his aging daughter, Charmaine. After years of living like a hermit under her father’s tyrannical rule, Charmaine’s youthful charms have faded and she is surely doomed to live out her days as a lonely old maid in her father’s rotting house. But what the others perceive as her sorrow-- her slumped shoulders and lowered gaze-- is in actuality Charmaine’s attempt to conceal the flicker of deception in her eyes; for she knows their pity on her is misplaced and their prayers for her father’s soul are in vain. As she goes through all the ceremonial motions of the burial, tossing dirt onto the grave of the father she murdered, Charmaine makes a stealthy manuever to carry away some of her father’s graveyard dirt hidden in her handkerchief.
Not content to simply pray for what she wants or to let nature take its course, Charmaine resorts to a local folk magic called “root-work”. Carrying the hanky of graveyard dirt and a mojo box of dolls, fetishes and charms, she heads deep into the woods, until she reaches a clearing where she forms a protective circle around herself using salt. She conjures up a tricky demon who appears to her in the form of a woman and promises to provide Charmaine with the man of her dreams in exchange for her father’s soul which is trapped among the graveyard dirt in Charmaine’s handkerchief. When the Man arrives, complete with a wedding ring, he is exactly what Charmaine imagined from his crisp, white linen suit to his deep green eyes. When the gossipy church ushers come nosing around, Charmaine stuns them all by showing off her suave, sophisticated husband, who tells everyone that he is a physician. She revels in the envy of all the women who laughed at her and called her an “old maid”. But just as Charmaine rejoices in having everything she wants, the Man’s eerie perfection gives way to horror and revulsion when he reveals his true nature. She again summons the demon asking for help but instead provokes a terrifying encounter. Reminding Charmaine that the Man is her “root work”, the demon in no uncertain terms informs her that if she wants to get rid of him she will have to do it herself.
Refusing to be outdone, Charmaine serves the Man a poisoned glass of sweet tea and finds herself joined once again by the townsfolk for a wake in her living room, this time mourning the death of her husband. But as day breaks, Charmaine realizes that the Man is waking up. Terrfifed of being found out, she pretends to be overcome by grief and throws herself on the casket, bawling and begging for time alone. As soon as the room is empty, she slips out a back door, hellbound for the shed. Grabbing an axe, she charges into the living room and flings open the casket to find the Man staring at her with his smiling green eyes. WHAM! She brings the axe down on his head. But her horror melts away to bewilderment when she finds the casket is filled only with the dirt she used to make him. At the burial site, Charmaine tosses dirt over the Man’s grave, keeping none of it for herself this time, wanting no part of him to linger beyond the burial. But as the Reverend performs the rites, speaking about God’s creation of man from dust, Charmaine is overcome with sickness and vomits. The gossipy ushers eye each other knowingly. Months later, they come nosing around to find Charmaine in a rocking chair on her porch, barefoot with a swollen belly.
In an exhausted daze, she rocks back and forth complaining about not being able to sleep because the baby inside her is “always kicking, always keeping me ‘wake.”