From its opening scenes this episode of the Hammer House of Horror is a mind-scramble. We are initially shown a set of apparently disjointed images involving the main character, Norman Shenley, in a set of saucy and violent encounters.
It’s pretty hard to make any sort of sense from these quickly-cut shots. It does however give a good idea on the sort of episode you are in for. Rude Awakening is a never-ending, inter-connecting nightmare that Norman finds himself living through.
A spiral of madness.
In Rude Awakening we follow estate agent Norman through a normal working week for him. At least that’s what it seems to be. He is a lecherous boss who enjoys making advances towards his secretary and is generally an unlikable man.
Soon after he arrives at work on Monday, a man enters his Estate Agent office to try and sell a property. The presenting of this property sets off a chain of events - all of which have Norman being chased, attacked and accused of terrible crimes. After each day escalates to its climax, Norman violently wakes up to the following day next to his wife - the events of before apparently a nightmare.
Each section of the story has him wake from that nightmare, start his day normally enough, then transpiring into yet another waking nightmare. Eventually, after a number of spiraling repetitions, a conclusion is reached, where Norman is eventually faced with his actual reality - or at least we assume this to be the case.
The concept for this story was a really interesting one for me. The horror didn’t come from a monster or even another person. Instead it came from Norman’s situation and how he was essentially trapped in a nightmare. He did have people that would come after him in each ‘dream’, but he would soon wake into yet another reality.
I found the ever-changing guise of the Secretary, Lucy, to be interesting too. In each new day / dream that Norman found himself in, Lucy would be completely different. From being dressed in biker rebel garb to a saucy school uniform.
I’m of the belief that each one is representative of Norman’s particular sexual tastes, as he is a man who tends to be led by his member. This is perhaps a nightmare that Norman brings on himself, maybe to somehow explain and justify what ends up happening in what we assume is his actual reality.
The late, great British actor, Denholm Elliott, plays the role of sleazy estate agent Norman Shenley really well in Rude Awakening. While it’s not the strongest of the episodes, it’s definitely not down with the weakest either.
The repeating narrative that would reveal a little more of the character each time was a compelling way to tell the story I found, and was definitely a step away from the structures of previous episodes of the Hammer House of Horror.
I would definitely recommend this episode to those who like their horror more psychological than gory.