Netflix is KILLING it right now.
Mike Flanagan had been on such a killer run recently. While I hadn’t staged a “Snowpiercer” level mutiny and had started conducting the hype train declaring him the next great mind in horror, but I had definitely hopped onto the caboose, excitedly waiting for any of his future projects. He looked like a consistent voice in a genre full of one-off successes. “Oculus” and “Hush” had established his brand within the horror community, while “Gerald’s Game” had shown his ability to effortlessly blend quality performances with effective horror, something too often forgotten in today’s horror film environment.
While “Before I Wake” technically was released on Netflix in 2018, the movie was originally scheduled for release way back in May of 2015. The movie was a victim of Relativity Studios’ shutdown and wasn’t able to find a distributor until Netflix decided to take a chance on it. While this was seen as Flanagan’s next great installment in his repertoire of successful horror flick’s building up to his “The Shining” sequel “Doctor Sheep”, the film was actually one of his first testing grounds to see what he could and couldn’t do in the horror genre. This guy was trying to come off directing episode of “Hot in Cleveland” to being the next great voice in horror, so his first attempt wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near his best. While I understand that he has evolved as a filmmaker over the last couple of years, this film doesn’t create much confidence in me for his enormous upcoming Stephen King adaptation.
The film struggles from not only an immense lack of scares, but heart as well. Its vain attempts at making us love this little kid, played by a suitable Jacob Tremblay, through the awfully animated butterflies immediately creates the sense that Flanagan believes his audience is simple. That trend continues with a complete lack of character from all of the leads, especially the mother, who somehow fails at being sympathetic after losing both her son and husband. This metaphor is too apt, but her performance failed to do anything to me before I woke because I was already asleep.
The film felt like it was talking to me like the mother was talking to Tremblay. The “Cancer Man” reveal at the end might be the funniest movie moment of the year so far. His character design is even funnier, with the dad’s death scene showing just how much Flanagan needed to learn about deaths in creature horror flicks. And did anyone else notice that the mom on her deathbed looked exactly like the Moonlight Man? Just me?
Unfortunately for horror fans everywhere, he had found ways to hide his inconsistency well enough before landing the biggest gig of his short directing career. I hope he goes the same route as Colin Trevorrow and fades back to directing small, mediocre indies before he ruins one of the most timeless horror films of all time.