Before I wake is a gorgeous looking film that sort of paces on the line between horror and fantasy. It gives you some serious scares towards the end and some of it are the all so well-known jump scares but a large portion of the film is a fantastical journey of two adults into the dreams of an 8-year-old. The film is directed by Mike Flanagan, the man who brought us films like Oculus and the more recent Hush. I am gradually becoming a fan of his art as he is able to constantly make absorbing pictures that are both entertaining and satisfying at an emotional and aesthetic level. In Before I Wake, there were multiple scenes where I was astounded by the beauty of the visuals and the feeling that the scenes were exuding. Flanagan is able to create a potent mix of both which really affects the viewers.
Before I Wake tells the story of Cody (Jacob Tremblay) an eight-year-old who has lost his parents and is forced to live with foster parents. He is adopted by Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) who have just lost their own son to an accident. Soon the parents realize that Cody is endowed with a unique gift which allows his dreams to manifest in reality. Jessie uses Cody’s powers to spend more time with his dead son while Mark feels that what she is doing is wrong. All seems well to start with but soon Cody starts having nightmares which threaten to shred apart Mark and Jessie’s life. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative.
The film can be divided into two distinct parts. The first half is more of a fantasy wherein, Jessie and Mark share in Cody’s dreams. This part gives us some stunning visuals involving butterflies, Christmas Trees and Jessie-Mark’s lost son. The background score, the performances by the actors and the surreal feel of these sequences take you to a different world. The visuals have a strange grip on your senses and just like the onscreen parents, the audience also wishes that the sequences don’t end. These sequences also are used towards the end to extract some interesting feelings. I won’t spoil the scenes here. It is better that you enjoy it first-hand.
The second half of the film turns into a relentless horror story. The Canker Man, which happens to be the prime antagonist here, is designed superbly. He is bound to send a shiver or two down your spine. As the story progresses, the Canker man assumes importance and meaning far beyond any horror character can ever dream of assuming. There in lies the next biggest strength of the film. Performance wise, Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane are wonderful. I enjoyed their chemistry and they really felt like a real couple. However, I have some problem with the manner in which Bosworth reacts after a terrible tragedy strikes her. She acts a tad bit too calm for the liking and this is the only time when the narrative of the film suffers.
Jacob Tremblay as the kid is a revelation. He is not the creepy sort that we are used to in horror flicks. He borders more on the cute type and yet he is endowed with some breathtaking abilities which turn out to be as dreamy as it turns out to be scary. His essay is very self-conscious and that’s a huge plus for the character as it renders the character very real. The film boasts of some terrific cinematography and visual effects. I mention the visual effects for the reason that they are able to successfully create a surreal feel which is interestingly very real. The Canker Man is also rendered superbly and as I mentioned before, will send shivers down your spine.
Overall, Before I wake is a thoroughly entertaining and affecting film which will work perfectly as a fantasy as well as a horror film. It has enough to cater to lovers of both the genres. Interestingly the film hasn’t got enough attention. Flanagan has once again created something which not only speaks of his highly creative and cinematically inclined mind but also something that is highly artistic and technically sound. I will be watching this film many times over in the future.
Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)