Grief and nightmares from the past: Mike Flanagan pulls it off again! Before I Wake – movie review

After Gerald’s Game (2017) and Hush (2016), Before I Wake is the third collaboration in a row between Mike Flanagan and Netflix.

It’s also the fourth movie in three years for the up-and-coming horror filmmaker and the co-writer of the scripts, Jeff Howard.

memeSooner or later, Flanagan will have a flop in his career, it’s bound to happen. But it is not that day! (Hope you read this line with Aragon’s voice in your head).

I have seen Before I Wake last year, since it came out on Italian Netflix in 2017, but I decided to re-watch it and came up with this review in 2018, when the movie would have had its wide release.

Before I Wake 2Strengthened by the great casting choices of Thomas Jane (The Mist, 1922) and Jacob Tremblay (Room, The Book of Henry and Wonder), this horror/fantasy/drama tells the story of Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Jane) who, after having lost tragically their kid Sean, decide to become foster parents of Cody (Tremblay). Cody is sweet, lovely, independent and caring, which makes everything that happens to him as the movie progresses all the more heart-breaking.

Mike Flanagan directs the hell out of Before I Wake and the script, with its main focus laying between family grief and exploration of marvellous and scary subconscious, is solid and very well written.

Before I Wake 1These filmmakers are at their finest when they set their movies within this territory, as Gerald’s Game demonstrates beyond the shadow of a doubt (in fact, it ended up on the third spot in my top 10 best horror movies of 2017). Before I Wake explores even better the subject matter, through compelling characters and a tears-inducing story that takes a very formulaic, cookie-cutter Hollywood set-up and throws it out of the window. Plus, in terms of character development, Jessie’s arc is fantastic, filled with twists and turns that truly enrich her traits and make her extremely relatable.

Yet, the movie looks visually beautiful as well, due to the colourful CGI that blends together with the locations through a spotless editing – crafted by Flanagan himself. These subtle computer generated images works perfectly also in creating highly frightening sequences.

Before I Wake 3Although the film is very touching and moving, all the while it manages to create an unreal suspense and a few mesmerising jump-scares. I’m usually not a big fan of this horror trope, but Flanagan is the director who makes the best use of them (even more than James Wan, if you ask me) – there were a couple of sequences that brought shivers down my spine, because they were crafted with a perfect amalgamation of spot-on music, colour choices and brilliant timing.

Before I Wake, similarly to Hush and Oculus (2014), has the amazing capacity of being appreciated by both mainstream audience and unconventional horror viewers. In particular, this is a movie that can be enjoyed either looking distractedly at your phone or paying full attention to the screen. In my opinion, this ability to appeal to every kind of viewer is what makes Mike Flanagan one of the greatest horror director working today (if not the greatest among the ‘mainstream’ ones).

Yet, like Gerald’s Game, Flanagan’s latest movie had an emotional impact on me: yes, I admit I cried my eyes out – and my girlfriend with me – during the last 5-6 minutes of this Netflix masterpiece!

As a result of all of that, Before I Wake works beautifully on many levels: it is a fantastic drama, a heart-breaking fairy tale, a terrifying horror movie. Combine them and you’ll simply get a great film. Also, the meaning/subtext of the movie is not obscure at all, therefore even the laziest horror viewer could get something good or interesting out of it.

I wish I could speak more in-depth about this film, but I’d have to get into spoilers and I don’t want to do that… so I might write an Explained in a few weeks.

Before I Wake                       9/10

Yes, in case you were wondering, I have a couple of issues with the movie – the cinematography is rather dull or, at least, uninteresting and there’s one scene that, despite giving us a great jump-scare, feels heavily exposition-driven and, therefore, very much misplaced. However, these problems didn’t bother me too much in the greater scheme of things… or, in this case, in the bigger picture of the movie.

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imdb Read my review on IMDb – Before I Wake in two days from now