If you are an independent horror fan, this next movie in the Fantasia International Film Festival will have you filled with joy. Before I Wake is Mike Flanagan’s upcoming horror, due for theatres on in September 2016. Mike Flanagan has showered its audience with fantastic horror starting with Absentia (which also premiered at Fantasia), followed with Oculus and earlier this year, Hush. You can check out the podcast we did recently over at That Moment In. What is even better than getting Before I Wake as a North American premiere is that Mike Flanagan was hosting the movie. As it turns out, Kate Bosworth also made it along with producer, Trevor Macy.
Before I Wake (2016)
Director and co-writer: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Kate Bosworth, Jacob Tremblay, Thomas Jane, Annabeth Gish, Antonio Romero
A young couple adopt an orphaned child whose dreams – and nightmares – manifest physically as he sleeps. – IMDB
Possibly one of the harder reviews to write for this festival is going to be Before I Wake. For those that know his work (and if you don’t, you should go check it out), Mike Flanagan is known for being very unique with his directing and writing. He knows how to build a great atmosphere and capture the feelings whether it is fear or dread or whatnot extremely well. It is something incredibly rare in the rather saturated horror genre. Before I Wake is a supernatural fantasy horror film. Before we start, I should reiterate that this was filmed quite some time ago, even before Jacob Tremblay started filming Room (review). Some other bits to take away from Before I Wake is that it was originally called Somnia and meant to be the third part of a themed trilogy with Absentia (review) and Oculus (review) being the first two.
Before I Wake is no exception to what Mike Flanagan has achieved so far in terms of greatness. Although Absentia remains my favorite so far, this one is a beauty to watch and the ending it gives is always a wonderful surprise that pieces together the things that many of us may have missed. It makes it extremely smart. However, it isn’t only that. Before I Wake starts off magically. Maybe not initially because we get introduced to the idea of what horrors we will encounter but it sets up who our front player is. Its of course Jacob Tremblay who plays Cody, a little boy whose dreams turn into reality while he is sleeping. And man, his dreams are beautiful from colorful butterflies to the images he captures. Unfortunately, his abilities does have a downturn and it causes him to be sent from one foster home to the next. Finally, they land with Jessie and Mark, played by Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane respectively. This is their first foster child they are are taking in except they both are also healing from the loss of their son, Sean. Suffice to say, this loss has damaged their relationship. While they still love each other, they are healing in a different way. Cody brings something more to their relationship and highlights who these two characters are and how they are truly dealing with the loss of their son.
Here is where we need to take a moment in embrace the stellar performance from our cast, especially the young Jacob Tremblay. In the Q&A (which I hope to be able to put together a video soon), they describe Jacob Tremblay’s audition and image as a boy that we want to protect and that is true. Jacob Tremblay is a charming boy. We can see his character and he captures the moment and the expression needed perfectly. Jacob Tremblay’s Cody shows a boy that has gone through a lot and seen a lot as he is transferred from foster home to foster home. At the same time, he realizes his abilities and tries his best to protect those around him. In fact, while his sleeping sequences brings in a lot of joyful that eventually drop to scary moments, he also brings in a lot of humor. He has tricks up his sleeves as he tries every way possible to stay awake or the things he says. For the most part, we fall in love with him and his character.
However, we can’t discount Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane (or anyone else). The story is not only about Cody but also highlights Kate Bosworth’s character Jessie quite a bit also because we see her active attempt to heal from her loss. Jessie is the character that changes and develops the most during the entire movie. Thomas Jane plays something different. His character emits a true effort to accept Cody in the family. He is ready for a new start. He is in check with reality and is far more objective even if he is much more awkward, especially feeling like he tries too hard but it is deliberate in the script to evoke some funny moments.
Aside from some great performances, Before I Wake is not exactly a full on horror. There is some great creepy moments but the heart of it is in telling a more emotional story. The moments itself and the monster he creates that are in Cody’s dreams is genuinely horrific. What is also notable is that it was played by a contortionist and not done with computer graphics. The sequence of introducing the monster and the supernatural bits are effectively scary even if there is a few jumpscares wrapped in the mix. With that said, Before I Wake is visually appealing especially with the imaginative bits. It is almost magical to watch. The most notable is the creation of the butterflies with Christmas lights that just brighten up the scene and a great sequence for creating an great atmosphere is that scene above for one of the creepier moments.
For someone looking for outright horror during the entire movie, this may not fit your slate. However, for those looking for something horror but with a little more, Before I Wake is a great pick. It carries some equally effective emotional moments that work well within the story. It has a creepy monster and a captivating performance by Jacob Tremblay and Kate Bosworth. There are some laughs and some jumpscares along with a clever way to wrap up the movie.