Before I Wake (2016) Review

Last year for my month of horror in October, I reviewed three Mike Flanagan movies: Oculus, Absentia & Hush. This year I’m reviewing three more: Gerald’s Game (reviewed Tuesday), Before I Wake and Ouija: Origin Of Evil (reviewed yesterday). Let’s see how Before I Wake compares to the rest of his films…

Before I Wake (2016)

Directed by Mike Flanagan

Written by Mike Flanagan & Jeff Howard

Starring: Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay, Annabeth Gish, Dash Mihok

Music by Danny Elfman & The Newton Brothers

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A young couple adopt an orphaned child whose dreams – and nightmares – manifest physically as he sleeps.

My Opinion:

I actually quite liked this movie, although I can’t exactly say it’s “good”. In my review of Ouija: Origin Of Evil yesterday, I complained about how that was just another predictable supernatural film. Before I Wake is again more of the same but the overall story and some of the imagery made it feel a little more unique than Ouija. I enjoyed the story & the characters enough to overlook its flaws.

I watched this for two reasons: Mike Flanagan as well as Jacob Tremblay, who I thought was fantastic in Room. Tremblay gave one of the best child performances ever in that movie so I was curious what he’d be like in something else, especially a horror that’s not exactly “Oscar-worthy” like Room. Yeah…. He’s fine in this movie but it’s a role any child actor could’ve done. It’s a shame it was a bit of a waste to use him in this but I suppose his name is big enough now to help sell an unknown film such as this one. I’m curious to see how his film Wonder will turn out. Hopefully it will be a better role for him but I suppose no role will ever live up to the Room role.

Oh, look! Thomas Jane is in this! I’ve come full circle in my Stephen King/Mike Flanagan Week since Jane was in King’s 1922. I like Jane & he was fine as the adoptive father. However – it was the mother, Kate Bosworth, who had the bigger role. She was good (as far as acting in basic supernatural horrors goes). I’ve always liked her fine so it’s good to see her in something as it feels like she’s sort of disappeared. Small spoiler but not really as it’s at the start of the film: Jane & Bosworth are adopting Tremblay after the tragic death of their own son. I often avoid movies involving the loss of the child as I find that subject matter too upsetting but I think Jane & especially Bosworth did very well in conveying their grief. It may be why I liked this movie quite a bit more than Ouija even though I’m giving it a similar rating: I just really felt for the parents in this and for Tremblay & the revelation regarding his nightmarish “gift” of having his dreams come to life.

As to be predicted, his dreams are at first nice ones that bring beautiful things, such as a room full of colorful butterflies, to life. I liked these scenes a lot – it was great imagery for a horror movie. I can’t find images of the butterflies online for some reason. Anyway, as also to be predicted, the dreams soon turn to nightmares and the manifestation of a scary spirit of some sort. Yeah, I know: We’ve seen this sort of thing in loads of movies.

The movie then goes the way of most supernatural horrors: the end is a little messy and you’ll either like it or you won’t. I personally liked the direction the story went & how they chose to end this one. I’ll say the “revelation” was one that I hadn’t immediately predicted so it gets bonus points from me for that. Yes, I enjoyed Before I Wake but, as most films in this genre, the story will be one that either does or doesn’t work for you. It worked for me.

My Rating: 6.5/10

My Mike Flanagan Movie Ranking (from least favorite to favorite):

6. Oculus
5. Ouija: Origin Of Evil
4. Before I Wake
3. Hush
2. Absentia
1. Gerald’s Game

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Room (2015) Review

Room (2015)

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson

Based on Room by Emma Donoghue

Starring: Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay, Joan Allen, Sean Bridgers, William H. Macy

Plot Synopsis:
I’m not putting a synopsis in this time. I, like most everyone who has seen this movie, knew exactly what it was about before going to it. My hubby didn’t know a thing, though, and I think it helped – he thought it was fantastic. If you somehow still know nothing about this movie, keep it that way before watching it. My review will be as spoiler-free as possible.

My Opinion:

This film has finally come out in the UK (along with all the other big Oscar nominees) so, therefore, I’ll be considering it a 2016 movie when I do my year-end lists in December. Then half the bloggers will go “that’s a 2015 movie!”. So annoying. 😉 I know I’ll be having to address comments like that once again, though, because I know already that Room will still easily be in my 2016 Top Ten by the end of December. It’s so good.

As I said when I didn’t include a plot synopsis, I’ll try to remain as spoiler-free as possible but this won’t be an easy film to discuss without giving any idea what it’s about (the pictures will be a clue as well but I won’t include many). It’s one I’d highly recommend to any fellow movie bloggers who still haven’t seen it as it’s the exact sort of movie that us (often misunderstood!) cinephiles can truly appreciate. It doesn’t assume its audience isn’t smart enough to fill in some of the blanks and it leaves just enough not fully explained and/or explored, leaving the audience to think about the movie afterwards and to wonder how they may behave in similar circumstances (as crazy as it may seem, it is a real thing that happens).

This movie may also be a “drama” but it’s not one that plays up to that fact. There are no over-the-top melodramatic moments that feel fake or contrived, which is something that drives me nuts about a lot of films. The characters feel like very real people who happen to be in a situation that most of us can, luckily, not even begin to imagine. I know this was a book but it’s one that I wasn’t at all aware of until now. After the film, I looked it up to make sure it’s up for best adapted screenplay (which it is – I was happy to see that). That’s when I noticed that the novel’s author also wrote the screenplay. Well, she did a fantastic job so I now really want to check out the book as well. I think a novel’s author should also write the screenplay more often if this is the kind of result.

I think one sign of a really good film is how much it gets people talking about it afterwards. My husband & I discussed it for a pretty long time. We go to quite a lot of movies but, most of the time, we have very little to say. Well, we’re big movie fans so we perhaps don’t really count anyway – we discuss movies more than the casual cinema-goers. But a lot of the time I’ll come out of a movie and, if people are even discussing the film at all, they never say much more than “that was good” or “that was bad”. This time there was a woman who clearly wanted to discuss it with everyone who walked by. I thought it was quite cool to see that for a change! She asked people if they’d just seen Room and said how fantastic the kid was and that she’d not felt anything like that for a kid in a movie since Kramer Vs Kramer and The Champ (oh, yes! a Ricky Schroder mention in 2016! made my day!!). As we left, I saw that she’d gone over to discuss the movie with those working in the cinema. It was just great to see such public enthusiasm for a film that so genuinely deserves a lot of praise.

Onto the acting (as mentioned by the lady at the cinema)… The performances in Room are superb – not only from Brie Larson (who very much deserves that Oscar nomination) but especially from the young Jacob Tremblay. Wow. The cinema lady is partly right – it’s up there with Ricky Schroder’s tearfest in The Champ in a way. However, it’s a much more understated & more “mature” performance than Schroder’s. It does make me wonder how you get such an outstanding performance from a kid so young. I assume some of the credit must also go to the director? So I’m very glad that he’s also up for the best director Oscar. It’s great when small films such as this one do get some recognition: It’s nominated for Best Film, Best Actress, Best Director & Best Adapted Screenplay. Excellent! But I’m not stupid – I don’t think it’ll get anything other than, most probably, Best Actress (I really wish Tremblay was up for Best Actor too, though – the Academy so rarely likes to nominate kids. What a shame).

The little films like this never win much, though. But hopefully the big nominations will at least get this film watched by people who otherwise may have never even heard of it. It’s a film that deserves to be seen and should be seen. Room is only in its second week of release in the UK and I’ve only just managed to catch it (on a tiny screen where my local cinema shoves all the indie films that no one wants to watch, which means it’s unlikely to be showing anymore beyond this week). Why don’t people go to movies like Room? It makes me sad in a way, which is why I enjoyed hearing that woman talking so excitedly about it after seeing it. This is the kind of film that I want to experience more often. Yes, it’s a difficult subject matter but it’s handled respectfully and the film is very well written with characters who are so believably portrayed. And Jacob Tremblay’s character may just make you want to look at life in a whole different light. Only the best movies can do that.

My Rating: 9/10