Before I Wake Review - Horror and Beauty Collide in the Most Majestic of Ways - Dread Central
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Before I Wake Review – Horror and Beauty Collide in the Most Majestic of Ways

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Starring Kate Bosworth, Jacob Tremblay, Thomas Jane, Annabeth Gish

Directed by Mike Flanagan


After a multi-year delay, Before I Wake from director Mike Flanagan (Hush, Gerald’s Game, Oculus) hit Netflix today and is now legally available for all to see. For many, this day is long overdue, especially considering how influential Flanagan has been to the horror genre over the past several years. However, instead of lamenting the state of cinema when films can get shelved for indefinite periods based on…who knows?, let’s focus on the fact that we now have it. And what a treat it is.

The movie follows Jessie (Bosworth) and Mark (Jane), a couple who are still in grief over the accidental death of their son, Sean. Unable to conceive another child of their own, they open their home to Cody (Tremblay), a foster child who has gone from home to home, a victim of strange and confusing circumstances. As the three of them learn to live with each other, Jessie and Mark begin to experience unexplainable phenomena around their home, at first seeing butterflies circling in their living room and then escalating to visions of their dead son. They quickly realize that these events only happen when Cody is asleep, making them a byproduct of his dreams. However, what happens when Cody doesn’t have pleasant dreams but rather terrifying nightmares? So enters the conflict of this story.

Wonderfully written, Before I Wake is a deliberately paced film, one that takes its time and allows scenes to unfold as they should. The dreamlike moments where Cody is at peace move with an ethereal and measured beat, allowing us to cherish each beautiful visual. However, when Cody’s nightmares come into play, the camera is more frantic, the pace more immediate, and the atmosphere far more deadly. This play in pacing gives a wonderful dynamic to the story, almost as if we ourselves are shifting from sleep to wakefulness and back again, over and over.

Visually, it’s hard to describe how entrancing Before I Wake is. Wonderful, vibrant colors populate Cody’s dreams, the butterflies that he so loves coming to life like flying jewels, glistening and sparkling across the screen. Alternatively, Cody’s nightmarish vision of the “Canker Man” is a haunting sight, one that is able to gruesomely contorts its body. It is a memorable creature, one that is expertly crafted and designed, its purpose revealed as the story progresses.

Perhaps the most important thing that Flanagan has done with Before I Wake is that he opted to not end the film where many might expect a finale. Rather, much like with Gerald’s Game, Flanagan extends the conclusion to bring forth an explanation that is all-too-identifiable for this writer. While I won’t spoil it, it weaves a narrative that is so powerful and expertly crafted, it almost boggles the mind. The explanation immediately explains why Cody’s nightmares feature this terrifying “Canker Man” and does so in a way that adds humanity to the story, something the horror genre often overlooks.

It’s painful that Before I Wake didn’t come out sooner, but it only solidifies Flanagan as a director whose view of horror is exactly what we need. He brings beauty, compassion, and wonder to the genre while never failing to deliver the goods that make horror what it is. Before I Wake is fantasy/horror at its finest. Make sure to bring a box of tissues.

  • Before I Wake
4.5

Summary

Before I Wake is the kind of horror film that makes your heart soar just as much as it makes it pump in fear. Excellent character development and truly breathtaking visuals complement a story that elevates this movie to a higher level.

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User Rating 4.5 (4 votes)

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