Fantasia Film Review: Before I Wake

(Source: Relativity)

(Source: Relativity)

Fantasia might be over, but this year I thought I’d cover some additional movies that I watched later.

When you were a kid, your dreams and your nightmares would seem so real that it was hard not to believe them. Mike Flanagan directs Before I Wake, a special screening of the 2016 Fantasia Film Festival, a movie where young Cody (Jacob Tremblay) knows anything he dreams will become real.

If the premise sounds a little familiar, that’s because it is. Dream worlds in horror have existed for a long time, most notably (or infamously notable) done in Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street movies. However, Mike Flanagan is going for something a little more subtle. Actually, it’s a lot more psychological than paranormal. I would’ve loved the movie turning into some childhood fable with horror elements like in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Instead, we get hopeful adoptive mom Jessie (Kate Bosworth) in the central role, becoming the one doing the detective work so we get a lot of exposition to explain everything we’ve already figured out before the movie even started.

I can’t help but comparing Before to Pan. While Flanagan turns this into Jessie’s story – a heroic, ideal mother driven by her love to Cody to save him from his own dreams, I’d love to have seen this purely from Cody’s point of view – a kid not able to trust his own imagination, haunted and scared. By the time a surprise reveal happens at the end, I felt I’d been cheated out of a stronger movie for the sake of making the first actress the saviour. A much more impactful ending would’ve been Cody saving her new mom by overcoming his own demons.

Highs: Some genuine tender moments and Jacob Tremblay’s performance as Cody. Horror and fantasy mixed into one film.

Lows: Another movie where a super mom has to save the day. Cody does not get to write his own ending. The movie feels very light on its horror mix. Too much exposition of a plot we knew before we walked in.

Recommended only as light fare. With a very slow pace, it feels like an episode of Twilight Zone or The X-Files turned into film. Once you realize what the story is (chances are you’ll have done it before walking in) you’ll have to wait for the movie to catch up.

That will do for now.

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