Stuff I Watch in October: Before I Wake (2016)

Before I Wake

Happy October and welcome! All 31 days this month, I will be reviewing all the films I watch in the month of October. They’re mostly a selection of horror or suspense films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Psycho (1960)
The Haunting (1963)
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
The Other (1972)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Halloween (1978)
Alien (1979)
The Shining (1980)
Halloween II (1981)
The Evil Dead (1981)
Halloween III – Season of the Witch (1982)
Ghostbusters (1984)
Teen Wolf (1985)
Aliens (1986)
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Predator (1987)
The Monster Squad (1987)
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
The Lost Boys (1987)
Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn (1987)
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)
They Live (1988)
Beetlejuice (1988)
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)
Ghostbusters II (1989)
Predator 2 (1990)
The Addams Family (1991)
Alien 3 (1992)
Army of Darkness (1992)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The Crow (1994)
Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Scream (1996)
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Scream 2 (1997)
Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
What Lies Beneath (2000)
Scream 3 (2000)
28 Days Later (2002)
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
The Ring (2002)
Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
Identity (2003)
AVP: Alien vs Predator (2004)
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Alien vs Predator: Requiem (2007)
Halloween (2007)
Grindhouse (2007)
Halloween II (2009)
Predators (2010)
Absentia (2011)
Prometheus (2012)
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Escape From Tomorrow (2013)
Oculus (2013)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: Before I Wake (2016)

Before I Wake

DIRECTOR: Mike woooooo by god Flanagan. Dude was just warming up at this point and was about to hit his peak.

WHAT IS IT?: Mike Flanagan’s next horror offering. I’ve always been fascinated with dreams and what they mean to the people who have them. When I’ve written stories, I’ve noticed that I’ve always, absent-mindedly, used dreams as a metaphorical tool which helps teach a character a much-needed lesson. The overall theme for this film (as it’s been for most of what Flanagan does) is that there’s no larger ghost than one’s own personal demons and regrets, something I agree with a great deal.

That’s the concept of writer/director Mike Flanagan’s third horror outing, Before I Wake a film that’s about as emotional as it is frightening — but nearly collapses under the weight of its own pathos and metaphors.

THE PLOT: When young Cody sleeps at night, his dreams physically manifest themselves in real life, producing some wondrous visions for his foster parents who are in a state of total disbelief when they see the things Cody sees when his eyes are closed…but what happens when those dreams become nightmares?

Jessie and Mark Hobson are two grieving parents who lost their son after he accidentally drowned in their bathtub. Looking to start over, they agree to adopt Cody, a boy who has been in and out of foster homes. At first, they feel good about the decision they’ve made…but imagine their shock when they suddenly see a slew of colorful butterflies appear in their living room after Cody falls asleep — and vanish after Cody wakes up.

The next night, Cody dreams of Sean, the Hobson’s dead son…who appears in front of the couple, making Jessie an emotional wreck. Once the couple figures out Cody’s gift, Jessie attempts to make the manifestations of Sean more life-like by showing Cody home videos of Sean speaking…but, soon, Cody becomes frustrated and that’s when the manifestation of a recurring nightmare being he’s dubbed “The Canker Man” begins to overrun Cody’s visions, turning the Hobson’s real-life dreams into life-threatening nightmares.

WHAT DID CRITICS THINK?: Before I Wake wasn’t as well-received as Absentia or Oculus, but it received mostly positive reviews. Critics praised Mike Flanagan for making a film about a child’s phobias — but from a parents’ point of view. Other critics weren’t so kind and ridiculed it for being maudlin.

Before I Wake

WHAT DID I THINK?: Flanagan does a fine job here, weaving a complex story involving emotionally scarred people who haven’t truly faced their tumultuous pasts and are, therefore, unprepared for the present.

Kate Bosworth and Thomas Jane are outstanding as the Hobsons. Bosworth plays Jessie as a mother who has a harder time letting go than her husband while Jacob Tremblay is great as the young Cody, a boy who has a past of his own and is wary about his gifts because he knows what they can do when he becomes troubled. It’s that foundation that the film builds on, presenting Cody’s dreams and nightmares like some surreal version of Disney’s “Fantasia”.

You’re, at once, wowed and frightened. Your nerves are on edge.

And there’s Cody, standing there after having woken up, apologizing in the most pathetic, fearful tone you’ve ever heard.
His only dream is to be loved as he once was, if only his foster parents weren’t so scared of what they just saw.

Yes, there are things I’m unclear about like “Can Cody’s nightmares actually murder people?” and “Can the people Cody’s nightmares come back?” as is clearly suggested at least a couple times.

When Before I Wake debuted on Netflix, it got tossed under the bus for being schmaltzy and heavy-handed. While I can see why viewers might feel that way, I do wonder if they have kids or if they ever had kids because I believe this film might resonate better with parents than with, say, your average iMDB “reviewer” or Rotten Tomatoes “audience member”.

Being a parent, I was taken by Before I Wake.

GRADE: B+

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