Thanks to the industry's incredibly warm reception to his grown-up performance in Room , you've probably seen Jacob Tremblay all over the place in the last year. But I can guarantee you've never seen him like this. Tremblay stars in Before I Wake , an upcoming horror film, in a role that's about as far from Room's Jack as one can get. According to Alabama news blog Al.com, the nine-year-old acting phenom actually filmed Before I Wake before the Oscar-winning drama that made him a star. (So no, you're not imagining things. He does look younger in the trailer for the former.) Tremblay co-stars with Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane and Annabeth Gish in Before I Wake, director Mike Flanagan's follow-up to the haunted mirror thriller Oculus. Precocious kids plus horror equals scares for days, so I'm hoping that Before I Wake lives up to that potential.
Mind you, it's going to be a big personal adjustment to be frightened of a precious cinnamon roll like Jacob Tremblay. Like most of the world, I was charmed by him throughout Room's press tour and awards season ubiquitous. I identified with his fanboy-ing of the Star Wars cast; grinned way too hard at every adorable red carpet interview, and cooed over his relationship with co-star Brie Larson. (A duel-generation soulmate friendship if I've ever seen one.) Remember when he took a moment before presenting an Oscar to congratulate host Chris Rock on his performance in Madagascar ? Hollywood is all about image, but Jacob Tremblay's arrival on the scene was a blow for innocence and joy.
Innocence turns unsettling in Before I Wake. The premise of the film is this: Jane and Bosworth play parents who lost their only son. They take in a foster kid named Cody (Tremblay), who seems like a polite dream of a child. The arrival of Cody coincides with some weird business in the house, including realistic visions of their deceased son Sean. His foster parents begin to realize that Cody's dreams can manifest, and his nightmares can too. In the trailer below, the Hobsons' are terrorized by the visions of a child; they aren't the first to recognize Cody's strange and dangerous power.
In Room, Jack's strangeness is the result of his sheltered existence, i.e. being born and raised in captivity with his Ma. Critics and audiences praised that performance because Tremblay was able to ground a character in circumstances that are unfathomable to most moviegoers. Deep underneath everything, Jack is just a kid.
I haven't seen the horror film yet, but it seems that Jack from Room and Cody from Before I Wake may have more in common than initially obvious. There may be a sharp twist in store, but the trailer doesn't cast Cody as a villain. He's a child dealing with matters that are beyond his control — a helpless conduit for evil. I can see why this young actor was cast in both films; he possesses a maturity that can seem heroic and wise in some circumstances and supernaturally menacing in others.
Image: Relativity Media