A 2016 Homerun, Mike Flanagan’s ‘Before I Wake’ Impresses on a Grand Level (Review)
Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Cast: Kate Bosworth, Jacob Tremblay, Thomas Jane
I’m beginning to think Mike Flanagan can do no wrong. Absentia was an awesome micro film that left a chilling impression; Oculus was commercial horror at its absolute finest; and Hush ranks as one of the 10 best home invasion pictures (right up there with flicks like Ils, aka Them, The Strangers, Vacancy, Wait Until Dark, When A Stranger Calls, Black Christmas, You’re Next, Panic Room and Inside) in existence. Flanagan is, in short, on absolute fire right now.
Knowing this, there was a part of me expecting Before I Wake to fall far short of expectations; no one hits a homerun every single time, right?
Well, so far, Flanagan has done just that, as Before I Wake is another superb picture. Every element of the production is impressive, and you won’t find one single, microscopic wrinkle in the film hiding some form of weakness or deficiency. It’s a winner from the jump until the final credits roll.
The story sees 30-something couple Jessie and Mark adopt a young boy. It’s something they’ve been contemplating for a while, as they’ve been feeling a true void in their lives since their own biological son drowned in their bathtub. And while Cody, the family’s new addition, is a sweetheart of a kid (he really is – this is no “evil child” flick), he’s also afflicted by something extremely strange. When Cody dreams, those dreams manifest themselves in our world – in reality. That could actually be a marvelous gift, if it weren’t for the terrifying dreams plaguing the poor kid, and subsequently, his new foster parents.
Thomas Jane and Kate Bosworth front the film, and they not only work well as a duo, they hold their own in those solo moments that successfully creep us out. There are a handful of bit players in the film, and while none steal the show, none fail to perform at the highest level of refinement one could ask for. There are no misfires on the acting front.
Visually speaking, Flanagan keeps his consistency alive and well. Before I Wake looks beautiful. There are a few sequences that feature glowing butterflies, and while the very idea of that might leave you shaking your head and harboring doubt, believe this: it works, very, very well. The picture’s antagonist also looks amazingly creepy. This thing is reminiscent of some of the jaw dropping creature creations in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, but it still manages a look all its own. Again, aesthetically speaking, it doesn’t get much better than this.
For some time I was of the mind that James Wan was the undisputed future of the horror genre. With each new Flanagan film to arrive I find myself formulating a different opinion. James Wan is no doubt an amazing filmmaker, but Flanagan is looking like a completely different animal. He’s far more versatile than Wan, he’s inventive and – perhaps the greatest strength the man possesses – he’s legitimately capable of scaring the piss out of us.
Before I Wake may not be Flanagan’s most paralyzing film, but it’s an engrossing picture that encourages viewers to examine the melancholy side of life and contemplate our own mortality.
Grab your grown man diapers and tune in to one of 2016’s greatest genre films, Before I Wake. You’ve got my guarantee that the picture will leave you feeling plenty satisfied.
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