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'Before I Wake'

by The Good, The Bad and the WTF? 4 years ago in review
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A Review of a Psychological Thriller Lacking Any Semblance of Psychology or Thrilling Elements

Okay. Where to begin? I suppose at the beginning. In its entirety, this movie seems to hold to the traditional late 20th and early 21st century cinematic values of taking what should have been a good film based on a solid concept and utterly ruining it with shitty writing, shitty acting, shitty directing, and shitty editing. Production values are pretty decent and the special effects are similarly decent.

Now to the heart of the matter. The movie is about a boy whose dreams, and nightmares, come to life as he sleeps. The movie’s opening scene shows a grown man holding a gun in the room of a boy. The man is dripping with sweat and appears to be struggling internally over whether or not he can shoot this sleeping defenseless child. An unknown terror makes a noise behind him, startling him. The boy wakes up and the man pusses out and doesn’t slaughter the kid. Obviously, he can get this close to doing it as long as the boy’s big doe eyes aren’t open and gazing upon him. Only later do we learn he should have shot the kid in the head and saved at least two lives down the road.

Next we find a couple packing away pictures of their son; apparently he’s died and the first thing we should do is erase the dead from our memories altogether. Nevertheless, this couple adopts the little dream killer in the hopes of replacing their dearly departed little boy. They’re understandably fascinated by their replacement son, kinda like one would be with a new puppy. And also, kinda like a new puppy, the novelty fades swiftly when they poop on the carpet, or in this case, when nightmares become reality. Pardon for skipping ahead. I’m foreshadowing nearly as much as this film does.

So the first night the new boy is in the dead boy’s room sleeping, we see in the living room butterflies begin to appear out of nowhere, much to the amazement and amusement of the husband and wife. Of course they put two and two together pretty quick as earlier in the evening the boy was reading a book about… butterflies. And as Mr. and Mrs. try to catch and play with the butterflies, one lands on Mrs. and bites her, while the one Mr. has caught suddenly disappears into thin air as the boy’s eyes open and he comes down to get a drink of water. Then, despite this strange event, they go to bed as though nothing happened. Because it’s perfectly normal for butterflies to materialize out of nowhere, in one’s home, late at night only to subsequently vanish without a trace, not unlike any interest in this movie beyond this point.

As the film progresses you can pretty much guess what happens next at every turn. One day at school a bully, for no apparent reason (I guess just because he’s an asshole bully?), knocks a jar containing a butterfly out of the boy’s hands. Jar breaks, butterfly dies, boy pushes bully to the ground and continues about his day. Next we see the boy nodding off during class and pinching the absolute shit out of his arm to keep himself awake. Then it’s time for recess and he asks the teacher if he can stay in the classroom and of course the teacher allows him to do so even though she needs to leave. The boy falls asleep on his desk, bully comes in with seemingly ill intent and is promptly attacked by a monster manifested by the boy in his nightmare. A girl, presumably in love with the boy, witnesses the attack, screams, wakes up the boy before she herself is attacked. Why three children are left unattended is beyond me, but I guess we should overlook that tiny flaw like all the rest of the tiny flaws in this movie. Next we find the day has ended, police are outside of the school questioning the girl, Mrs. asks the boy what’s up, the boy knows what’s up, but tells Mrs. a kid ran away from school and we need to gtfo now.

Later the boy has a nightmare and is dragged under his bed so Mr. builds him a racecar bed the next day and they paint the whole room to continue erasing the dead son from their collective memories. But guess what happens next. That’s right! The boy has a dream and manifests the dead son into the living room. But all the dead kid can do is smile because that’s the only thing the boy knows (oh, because Mrs. insisted on leaving one picture of the dead son on the wall, foreshadowed earlier in the film). So now Mr. and Mrs. get the idea of showing the boy old home movies of their dead son so the next time he dreams of him they can have their son back and intact. Good job Mr. and Mrs., way to be loving and nurturing towards your newly adopted replacement son. Use him to bring your home movies, and dead son, to life. Awesome! Two thumbs WAY up on great parenting!

Mr. grows a conscious however and tells Mrs. this is wrong and they need to stop. Her response? Drug the boy so she can have her dead son back for even longer. The boy's response? Have a nightmare of the creature which killed the bully earlier and have the creature essentially hug Mr., absorbing him into the great beyond. No more Mr.

Now the widow formerly known as Mrs. is on a mission to figure out what’s going on. Please read that statement again, but with a little emphasis. NOW the widow is on a mission to figure out what’s going on. Because you know, a boy whose dreams come to life is perfectly normal up until they take the ‘D’ away. Anyways, because she micked the little tike, he’s taken back to social services while she investigates the happenings. She steals his file from social services, interviews the last guy who had custody of the little dream killer, and finds out exactly what’s going on. Then she investigates a little further and finds out the boy’s original mother died of pancreatic cancer and the last image the mother left him with was of a really hideous monster because she wanted to say goodbye to her very small son who couldn’t process visual information accurately and is left with a skewed and flawed perception of reality. A little overdone in the makeup department, but it explained the monster the boy conjures up during his nightmares.

So now she understands what the boy has been through and goes to the orphanage (? Is that what they’re called now? Whatever.) where social services is keeping the boy to retrieve him. Ironically, social services has also micked the boy, though this time under the approval of medical staff and with something meant to mick a boy his age and not with the intent of seeing their own dead kids through the boy’s dreams. Anyways, the widow arrives at the orphanage(?) late at night and finds several people have been bukkaked to the walls and door openings with what looks like roots. The monster materializes and approaches her. Instead of cowering in fear or running away, she opens her arms wide to embrace the thing which killed her husband (she didn’t like him anyways, he was apparently unemployed). The monster wraps its monstery arms around her and instead of absorbing her into the great beyond, the monster turns into the murderous little boy. Hey, murder is excusable as long as you’re cute, it’s just the way the world works, deal with it.

Truly the only thing I liked about this movie was the monster. It wasn’t a smoke monster, which seems to be a device loved by film makers over the last 15 or 20 years. The special effects during the replay of Christmas with the dead child were also nicely executed in my humble opinion.

Basically the whole movie is trite drivel and not worth watching unless you have absolutely nothing better to do. It felt like it wanted to be a psychological thriller, but was lacking a couple of small elements key to a successful psychological thriller, namely psychology and thrills.

Some things to mention left out above: We have no idea what the husband does, though his unkempt greasy long hair could indicate he’s unemployed; we’re left to presume the wife is a nurse because she wears scrubs when she picks the boy up from school; inexplicably the boy is aware he’s manifesting dreams and nightmares even though he’s asleep when doing so; the boy somehow maintains a stash of energy drinks and caffeine pills; the son drowned in a bathtub while on his back despite being old enough to sit up; when it’s explained the dead son drowned it’s a logical assumption some malevolent, unseen force killed him and not that he drowned from being unable to… sit up; only after the son dies do Mr. and Mrs. decide to put grab bars in the tub, better late than never? Not in this case; there was little to no character development (what did Mr. do to earn money again?).

Watch it. Don’t watch it. I really don’t care either way because the whole movie is essentially crap. A twisted pile of burning failure left over after a slow motion train wreck into a dumpster fire.

Oh, by the way, the dead boy’s name was Sean. A note to filmmakers everywhere, please stop naming dead boys Sean. It’s nothing against the name itself, but there are other names for dead boys besides Sean. Somehow, somewhere at some point in time it seems all of Hollywood got together and decided unanimously to name all dead boys Sean. Please stop it. Pick a different name. Perhaps Eric. Eric’s a good name. Or Matt. Possibly Joseph? Maybe it’s time to kill off a Stephen (no offense to Mr. Hawking, I’m just saying). Enough with the Seans being shown to the grave as children. And no, my name isn’t Sean.

Report Card:

Writing: D

Directing: D

Acting: D

Editing: D

Character Development: F

Special Effects: B

Foreshadowing: A+ (Way to not keep me guessing at any point, after all, I don’t need any suspense whatsoever.)


About the author

The Good, The Bad and the WTF?

Movies reviewed realistically. Spoilers ahead, every single time. Suck it up and deal with it. If you can't watch a movie after knowing everything that happens, then how do you ever watch a movie more than once?

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