A family-focused horror film that was stuck in pre-release for years.
I remember seeing a preview for Before I Wake in 2016, and it did screen that year, but was only widely released recently. Oddly, the film was actually complete in 2013, and I have no idea what exactly caused the delay. Comment below if you know any more details, please.
We follow grieving parents Mark and Jessie (Thomas Jane and Kate Bosworth) who decide to adopt a child some time after an accident claimed the life of their son. They adopt Cody (Jacob Tremblay), who has been through several families already. Tremblay is a fantastic actor, and his work in Room needs to be seen. He is likewise great here, and the small tender moments between parents and children elevate this film beyond its genre moorings.
When Cody sleeps, his dreams manifest in reality. The parents see his dreams come to life, and are immediately fascinated. Jessie begins feeding ideas to Cody almost immediately so she can see her dead child at night when Cody dreams. Cody is hesitant of this, as is Mark, who claims it to be abusive—and he is right, but for Cody it is because he knows his nightmares manifest as well. Something called the Canker Man haunts him, and when he sleeps he puts everyone in danger.
The film tries to balance family drama and supernatural horror, but doesn’t do the best job. The Canker Man isn’t scary, and the rational behind what is happening isn’t explained until the final minutes of the film—and the explanation is a little thin. The family drama works for the first half, but the film goes off the rails later on.
While we could probably argue that the film was delayed due to its narrative problems, this explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense. While the story doesn’t really work, it also doesn’t totally suck. Well, it kind of sucks, but not totally? I’m not really sure where I am going with that line. Worse movies have been released with no trouble, so whatever delayed it wasn’t the problems.
Irritatingly, the acting is quite good. All three of our leads create a realistic, albeit tragic setting that should have allowed for a more interesting story. The first half of the film works well enough, but after [not going to spoil it] the movie takes an odd left turn. It might have worked if the first half of the film didn’t show us that Jessie doesn’t love Cody for Cody, but rather that Cody can allow her to see her dead son.
The movie is weird in that on the surface it looks pretty good. Strong acting, decent writing, technical aspects are above par, and it is an interesting concept, but somewhere along the way it didn’t fully translate. I am a little behind writing this review and I have forgotten several details. The film works for an evening viewing, but little more. While I do hope the actors continue to find good work, this one just misses the mark. 4/10