How Scary Is 'Before I Wake'? The Netflix Horror Movie Is One Long Nightmare


After the success of 2013's Oculus, fans were eagerly awaiting the next film from horror director Mike Flanagan. But then Before I Wake, his feature starring Kate Bosworth and Jacob Tremblay, was delayed — and delayed again. Now, with the movie finally about to come out, fans can stop asking "when will the movie come out?" and start focusing on the important things, like just how scary Before I Wake actually is. The answer to this, of course, depends on every viewer's own tolerance for horror. Just beware that the film's main source of horror is a boy's literal nightmare, so it might just be your nightmare too.

It's no exaggeration to say that Before I Wake is one long nightmare. The movie tells the story of Jessie (Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane), a couple grieving the loss of their young son who decide to take in a foster kid, Cody (Tremblay). Everything seems to be going great, but strange things start happening his very first night with them. Jessie and Mark soon realize that when Cody sleeps, his dreams become real in whatever home he's living in. It sounds nice when all Cody dreams about are sweet butterflies and Jessie and Mark's son, but things quickly turn when Cody has a nightmare — and then another, and another.

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As anyone who has ever had a nightmare knows, the most scary thing to imagine is having a bad dream and waking up to find out that it wasn't a dream at all — it was real. Before I Wake is, essentially, one long nightmare-turned-reality, and that concept alone is enough to make some audiences run and hide. Tremblay himself had trouble watching the movie, which he called "a psychological thriller" during a 2016 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

"When I watched it I had to cover my eyes the whole time, I barely got to watch the movie," the young actor told host Jimmy Kimmel. "When you're filming the movie, it's not that scary because there's a bunch of camera men all over the place," he added. "But once you see the movie, once it's all edited and there's scary music in it..." Granted, he was 10 years old at the time of the interview, but, Tremblay seems like a pretty good judge of what's scary and what's not. Whether you believe him or not, the lesson is that if you are still afraid of what you were afraid of when you were 10, then maybe Before I Wake is too scary for you.

That said, the movie was never really intended to be a movie of jump scares and frightful creatures. Instead, Flanagan, who recently earned rave reviews for his horror films Hush and Gerald's Game, both of which can be found on Netflix, sees the film as more of a dark fairy tale than anything else.

"This was about how understanding these things [grief and trauma] in our lives can dispel the shadows, and the fear, and leave us with something else," Flanagan revealed in an interview with Dread Central. In fact, the movie came form one of the most innocent of inspirations: Flanagan's son. In 2007, when the writer-director was first coming up with the story, he was a new father. "I remember watching my son sleep and wondering what his dreams would look like," Flanagan told Dread Central. "There was this feeling I had, like I could know him better if I could somehow see the things his mind created when he gave up the day," he said, adding that Before I Wake wasn't originally a horror film.

For all those worried about the horror within the movie, its true scary story happened behind the scenes. The movie was ready for release way back in 2015, and distribution hell kept it hidden from American audiences for far too long. Now, thanks to Netflix, fans can enjoy being trapped in a little boy's nightmares all they want. So, at least part of the horror movie has a happy ending.