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One Movie Punch

Jan 6, 2018

Today’s film is “Before I Wake”, a 2016 supernatural horror film picked up by Netflix for their first 2018 offering. “Before I Wake” (2016) stars Kate Bosworth as Jesse and Thomas Jane as Mark, a couple recently approved for foster care after losing their son, Sean, in a drowning accident. Jesse and Mark meet Cody (played by Jacob Tremblay), a child who has had a string of bad foster placements with bad endings.

Jesse and Mark welcome Cody into their home, doing their best to work with him while struggling with memories of their lost child. Soon, Jesse discovers multiple stimulants that Cody is hiding and using to keep from falling asleep. After taking away those stimulants, Cody fights to keep himself awake, but eventually falls asleep.

Jesse and Mark begin to notice strange things happening in their home, beginning with beautifully rendered butterflies and moths flying around their living room. They soon realize that Cody’s dreams come to life while he sleeps, when a version of Sean returns, causing trauma for both of them. And eventually, not only his dreams, but his nightmares come true.

Good genre films need to accomplish two things. First, in any genre film, if you mute the genre-related elements, the characters should still hold up. Genre elements certainly can and should affect the characters, but they shouldn’t define the characters, nor make them interchangeable. Kate Bosworth gives a strong, believable performance as Jesse, struggling with the loss of her biological child, the way she is trying to parent Cody, and how Cody’s power affects her and her marriage. Thomas Jane feels relegated to the background, but has his moments. Jacob Tremblay’s performances feels convincing, although without much depth.

The second thing all genre films need to do is bring something new to the table, whether that’s a different perspective or a unique plot twist or whatever will help it stand out from other genre films. Mike Flanagan and Jeff Howard put together a rough script with a lot of implausibilities, like how Cody never seemed to cause public havoc in-between foster parents, or how easily Jesse and Mark accept that their new foster child’s dreams really do come true. Implausibility aside, the story is woven very well, making the last fifteen minutes a joy as the various clues come together. Mike Flanagan makes great use of background effects, along with light and shadow to build and maintain suspense.

Ultimately, “Before I Wake” (2016) is a story about how parents and children deal with the loss of one another, and how the emotions they experience can affect us, both psychologically and, especially in the case of the film, physically. While the film doesn’t really break any new ground, a strong performance from Kate Bosworth helps distinguish this film from other child possession/powers horror films.

Rotten Tomatoes: 42%

Metacritic: TBD

One Movie Punch: 6.6/10

“Before I Wake” (2016) is rated PG-13 and is currently streaming on Netflix.