Review: BEFORE I WAKE (2016) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Review: BEFORE I WAKE (2016)

Following the tragic death of their young son Sean (Antonio Romero), Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) are struggling to maintain a healthy relationship. As they no longer able to conceive other children, they decide to adopt a kid in order to start a new family. Soon, they welcome an 8-year-old kid named Cody (Jacob Tremblay). He is cute, bright and instantly likable. But there is one peculiar thing about him: Cody is terrified of falling asleep and he will do anything to stay awake. Apparently, Cody has a mysterious gift that able to make his dreams literally come true whenever he sleeps. Through Cody's imagination, Jessie and Mark able to experience wonderful images. But the downside of Cody's dreams lies a nightmare known as "The Canker Man" (Christopher "Topher" Bousquet).

REVIEW: On paper, a supernatural horror about a gifted boy whose dreams and nightmares able to manifest physically as he sleeps, sounds like a potentially interesting setup. In fact, the premise itself feels like it belongs to Guillermo del Toro's genre territory where a horror movie is told through the eyes of a child. But unfortunately, director Mike Flanagan (2013's OCULUS) is far from an accomplished visual stylist that I hoped for. First up, Cody's imaginary world where he dreams a swarm of colourful butterflies feels beautiful at the beginning but gets old very fast when the same visual motif becomes repetitive. Then there's the nightmare sequence involving "The Canker Man", a tall and gaunt bogeyman that looks as if the monster belongs to a video game. Last but not least, BEFORE I WAKE also relies heavily on jump scares -- an overused trick often seen in many modern horror movies these days. 

Still, the movie has it's few moments. With the help of cinematographer Michael Fimognari and production designer Patricio Farrell, Flanagan wisely opted a more classical approach to frame his shot. As a result, certain scenes that take place in the dark or quiet surroundings manage to evoke a foreboding sense of dread and creepiness.

The screenplay, where Flanagan and Jeff Howard combines supernatural elements with heartfelt themes that deal with loss and parental love, isn't entirely successful but still carries a fair share of emotional value. As a grieving married couple trying to cope with the loss of their beloved son, Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane bring enough subtlety to their emotionally vulnerable characters. Best known for last year's remarkable performance in ROOM with eventual Oscar winner Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay delivers another standout role as Cody.

Although this supernatural horror lacks visionary touch and relies too much on jump scares, BEFORE I WAKE still benefits from its strong cast as well as the eerie setting.

* This review is written courtesy from TGV press screening *

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