Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
January 1st, 2015

Before I Wake

Before I Wake
Directed by Mike Flanagan
Written by Mike Flanagan, Jeff Howard
Starring Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay
97 mins

Granted, "Before I Wake" had a theatrical release, though a fairly limited one--I don't recall ever seeing it around here and it only pulled in $3.2 million therein--but I feel confident in covering it all the same. This is one of the strangest little pieces of work I've seen in some time, and if you watch it, be prepared for a slow burner that will explain little but freak you out all the same.

"Before I Wake" follows Cody, a young man with a dark past and a mysterious gift. He's got the power to turn dreams into reality, a thing that could be a very big deal indeed. But like all young men, sometimes those dreams turn dark. And when they do, they could well mean disaster. A new couple has just adopted young Cody following the death of their own son, and now will face down the dark gift living in Cody's mind together. Even if it kills them.

Like I said, this little doozy is a slow burner. Nothing serious will happen for about the first half hour, 40 minutes or so, and given that this movie's only about 90 minutes long, that's a problem.

But when it does get going, it will get going in a big way. Creepy visuals, jump scares, "intense soundscapes"--seriously, that's a subtitle on like three or four scenes--and all the frightening stuff you could ask for. There's some very exciting scenes in here, and some great adrenaline rushes.

The problem, however, is that even when Before I Wake does get going, it's going nowhere in particular. Sure, it's going there in the creepiest, flashiest, nightmarish way you can imagine, but it's still going nowhere. It's like a flaming, cartwheeling train wreck of a movie, spiraling end over end. I spent entirely too much time here just wondering what the hell was going on, and the movie was not in any real rush to fill me in.

The ending comes with a bit of explanation, but even this is the worst sort of copout, referring to Cody's "gift" as though it were artistic talent or the ability to repair small gas engines. No one has any idea how he got the ability to make his dreams into reality, nightmares and all, but there it is.

The special features include English subtitles, and trailers for "Desierto", USS Indianapolis", "The Whole Truth", "The Handmaiden", and "31".

All in all, Before I wake is a creepy, scary affair that makes almost no sense. If you dig creepy visuals and don't mind absolutely terrible expository value, then you're in good company here. If you want your movies to make sense along with the scary, well, you'll be disappointed.