Thoughts on Before I Wake: a vastly underrated movie

Mike Flanagan’s movies are not just often highly appreciated by professional critics: they also make horror fans go crazy.

Besides his first effort behind the camera (Absentia, 2011), ever since Oculus (2014) Flanagan’s films have received broad praises thanks to their combination between mainstream horror concepts and unconventional execution of said ideas.

Heck, Gerald’s Game (2017) is now widely considered among the best Stephen King’s adaptations ever!

Before I Wake - TO 1 and feature.jpgWhat happens to Before I Wake, then?

Before I Wake TO 2Before we proceed in the analysis, bear in mind this “Thoughts on” might include minor spoilers, so if you want to know why Before I Wake is a great dark fairy tale without having it spoiled, check out my spoiler-free review and see why I gave the movie 9/10 (photo IMDb).

Some reviewers panned the film for the following reasons (sources IMDb and RottenTomatoes):

  1. Horror movies that exploit broad childhood phobias about bedtime lights-outs and basement chores are a dime a dozen”.
  2. “Before I Wake doesn’t have the story nor the suspense to keep it engaging, making this Flanagan’s first misfire”.
  3. “Wildly uneven, Before I Wake has its moments, but it never quite gels into something coherent or greater than the sum of its disparate parts”.
  4. “A horror film with too many loose ends that doesn’t add anything new to the genre”.

These appear to be the most common criticisms from the reviewers’ part, since they seem not to appreciate the movie mainly because of its lack of originality and incoherence in pace and plot.

In regards to originality, my response is rather simple: not every single horror movie needs to be unconventional or to bring something new to the table. Although many classics of horror revolutionised the genre, others didn’t and still can be considered awesome motion pictures. The fact that Before I Wake won’t become a horror classic goes without saying, but my point is that a movie can be great without necessarily be original.

In regards to plot and pace, I wonder if I have watched the same movie as the reviewers mentioned above. Before I Wake flows seamlessly from beginning to end, it’s extremely climactic in its three acts and, other than the mental institution scene, nothing seems to be there out of lazy writing. Sure, to each their own, but how can you define such a powerful horror/drama “not engaging”? The script is powerful because it relies on strong emotions and delves into them in a mature and clever way: some may argue that the ending is a bit cheesy (fair enough), but calling the movie a “misfire” appears to me like a rather childish and easy criticism.

Let’s now tackle the criticism from audience members (sources IMDb and RottenTomatoes):

  1. “Right from the start Before I Wake got on my nerves. You’ve got the perfect couple living in an amazing house without any visible means of support. What do they do for work? The kid is ridiculously adorable mini-Bieber with a cutie-pie pout and way of speaking. Perfect perfect perfect. It’s pure Hollywood fantasy”.
  2. “The effects look cheap. There’s no artistic pretensions in the photography. The pacing is terrible. Already in the first “nice” dream you can see a ghostly presence, they could have waited a bit more. After that, the dialogues become long and tedious. Acting and dialogues come from a Hallmark picture. The director makes never-ending close-up shots on actors that show nothing”.

With all due respect, the first viewer’s take is simply laughable: in a 90-minute-long movie, there isn’t always the time to establish every single aspect of the characters’ life, whereas what’s really important is to develop those traits that have an importance within the film. Which is something Flanagan’s movie succeeds at. Plus, the cuteness of Cody is what makes everything that happens to him all the more enthralling and intense: and, by the way, in real life people can be “adorable with a cutie-pie pout and way of speaking”…

Finally, stating that “the effects look cheap” can simply mean the responsible for said criticism had never seen a movie in his entire life other than Before I Wake! Here, both CG and practical effects are great, and they blend together seamlessly. Sure, the camera-work and the photography are not exceptional – and, by that, I mean that they don’t try to innovate upon something that’s been done before – but they’re well-crafted and spotless nevertheless.

In conclusion, this post might seem like I’m trying to force my opinion on the film down of people’s throat. My intent, however, couldn’t be more different from that: here I tried to explain why superficial reviews might affect the perception of a film. Although I’m a critic myself, don’t always listen to us people: in this case, watch Before I Wake and have fun!

HW&R Logo Click the follow button to subscribe to HorrorWorld&Reviews

logo-twitter Follow me on Twitter @Horroreviews: