Review: Before I Wake (2016)

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Oculus and Absentia director Mike Flanagan’s 3rd feature starring Kate Bosworth and Room‘s Jacob Tremblay is an interesting paranormal drama in the vein of The Twilight Zone. Check out our thoughts in this review after the jump.

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Before I Wake has suffered from many delays in its road to the big screen; hitting screens in Asia a full year before its release in the United States. It’s an interesting film that dances in the fine genre line between horror and fantasy; dealing with a similar theme and situation to this year’s Lights Out, albeit being a much more engaging film.

Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane play Jessie and Mark Hobson, a pair of parents whose child had passed away in a bathtub drowning accident. The two become foster parents as a way to move forward with their loss and take in Cody (Tremblay), a special case who has bounced around from foster families according to his case worker Natalie (played by The X FilesAnnabeth Gish). Jessie and Mark take to Cody and try to make him comfortable, made difficult by the fact that he takes energy drinks so as to try to not sleep. After confiding in Cody about the death of their son, Cody starts to trust Jessie and it is shortly after that the Hobsons’ discover Cody’s secret. While Cody sleeps, his dream literally come true and this manifests itself in technicolor butterflies and he is able to conjure a duplicate of the Hobson’s dead child looking every bit as real as he did when he was alive. Jessie becomes overcome by this and starts to stay up late at night, just for a chance to interact with Cody’s dream replica of her son. However, this gift has a dark side. As Cody becomes closer to his foster family and the family longs for him to sleep, a separate entity, a ‘kanker man,’ manifests itself and takes those who threaten and love Cody away from him.

Admittedly, the film is somewhat predictable. Thomas Jane continues his string of genre film performances this year; though his performance here is nowhere in the same vicinity as in Blumhouse’s The Veil but much better than in the Bruce Willis sci-fi film Vice. Bosworth’s Jessie becomes obsessed with Cody’s visions and soon starts tracking down Cody’s past foster families to try to uncover more about his gift and the trail of the ‘kanker man’ and the victims it has left behind. Particularly effective is Dash Mihok (William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet), as Cody’s last foster father, who shared a similar fascination as Jessie with Cody’s dream replicants. The film offers up a Twilight Zone style twist at the end that is effective and compelling; albeit one that ties up the film a bit too neatly for this reviewer’s opinion.

Ultimately, I recommend Before I Wake, a solid entry in the haunted child horror genre. A much better film than Oculus and boosting a solid lead peformance by Bosworth.

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