“No one ever really goes away. Not completely. Because they live in our minds, and in our hearts.”
Foster parents Mark and Jessie welcome 8-year-old Cody into their home. The boy tells Jessie that he’s terrified to fall asleep, but she assumes it’s just a natural fear for any young child. The couple becomes startled when their dead biological son suddenly appears in their living room. To their surprise, Cody’s dreams can magically become real but so can his nightmares. Mark and Jessie must now uncover the truth behind Cody’s mysterious ability before his imagination harms them all.
I heard about Before I Wake from a co-worker, who told me it was a very scary movie and I should check it out. Considering that I have very different ideas of what constitutes a “scary movie” than most Normals, I did the standard smile-and-nod and filed the suggestion into the darker back-regions of my brain for possible future reference. Which didn’t take too long, because I then got ahold of a viewing copy to watch, and popped it in one Sunday evening.
Doing a bit of research on this movie, it appears that Before I Wake was plagued by a some studio issues, causing it to be delayed in its official release. It was finished and ready in 2014, and was originally supposed to be out in May of 2015, but was then delayed due to Relativity Media–the US distributor of the flick–going into bankruptcy. It happens. Also, apparently the movie was originally titled Somnia, but was changed to its current title over director Mike Flanagan’s objections.
Speaking of Mike Flanagan, he also directed previously a certain little favorite in mind-bending horror of mine called Oculus back in 2013. Here in Before I Wake, his atmospheric style is very apparent, with a palpapal sense of underlying dread and dark foreboding spread on like peanut butter. Although, I would really classify Before I Wake as more of a dark urban fantasy rather than straight horror; the story itself seem more in the vein of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, incorporating kind of a dark whimsy along with the horrific coloring.
The movie starts off with a clearly disturbed father about to shoot his young foster son while the lad is sleeping, but gets distracted by…something. So at least we’re spared a potential child snuff film. Some time later, we see the young boy being placed with another foster couple, who take in the boy to help not only him, but also in hopes to heal from the unfortunate death of their own son. While they’re settling in, the couple discover that their ward is able to manifest his dreams in reality…which also includes a recurring nightmare.
I have to give this movie props: in lesser hands, Before I Wake could have easily become a run-of-the-mill creepy child with creepy powers flick. Fortunately, the cast is a good one, who manage to get the majority of the unease and dread atmosphere from the more natural sense of mourning due to the loss of the characters’ son and trying to move on with their lives. This helps to magnify the supernatural events that start happening, compounding the nightmares that result due to the child’s powers. The characters are flawed, lending to a depth that’s more than just archetype.
The effects here are very effective, especially with the fantastical nightmare elements that were very, very creepy visually speaking. I do have to say, though, that the ending was a bit weak; while I understand the explanation as to the why behind the nightmare that manifests itself, how it was ultimately defeated caused me to groan out loud.
Overall, while it didn’t necessarily blow my mind, I did find Before I Wake to be a better-than-average slow burning dark urban fantasty that doesn’t tie things up as easily as it could have. It will definitely have you thinking a bit more about it by the time the end credits roll. Worth a look-see.