July 3, 2016
The poster looked eerie and its tagline sounds interesting. Even if there was hardly any publicity for this film and the lead actors were not exactly top-tier, I am always game for a good horror film, so I still went to watch this one.
Jessie (Kate Bosworth) and Mark (Thomas Jane) Hobson are a couple still recovering from the loss of their little boy Sean who died in a freak bathtub accident. To help them move on, they decided to adopt a foster child, Cody (Jacob Tremblay). Eventually, they realize that when Cody dreams of something, it becomes a reality. At first, these dreams were all pleasant and wondrous. Later on, they would take a turn for the ghastly and deadly.
It was a most welcome surprise that the kid playing the foster child Cody was portrayed by none other than Jacob Tremblay, the wonder boy who impressed us all with his performance in the Oscar-nominated indie film "Room." I personally thought that Tremblay should have been at least nominated for an Oscar himself for portraying and pulling off such a challenging role. In this follow-up film, he was again the center of story. Tremblay was able to successfully tread that delicate line between innocence and menace his character had.
It was good to see Kate Bosworth on the big screen again. Like Brandon Routh, her career seemed to have stalled after the ill-fated "Superman Returns" (2006) where she played Lois Lane. Since then, I have not really heard anything of note about her, until I saw her here again (which is not to say that this film is of any great note). Her performance was solid here as the grieving mother Jessie, who still longed for her dead son, a portrayal you can empathize with.
The Thomas Jane I saw here was a shadow of the Thomas Jane who we remember best as "The Punisher" (2004). He seemed to just be coasting along here, with nothing distinctly remarkable about his performance as the father Mark. Annabeth Gish I remember as Agent Monica Reyes on the forgettable Season 10 of "The X-Files". She played the social worker who facilitated Cody's adoption with the Hobsons. Her limited role did not really give her any dramatic opportunities.
This film had been sold as a horror film when it was more of a dramatic film. The "horror" lay in some disturbing scenes, nothing really terrifying. There were not even any true jump scares. However, an effectively creepy atmosphere had been created to make the dramatic storyline more compelling and unique. The fear and foreboding factor is heightened because the story involves young children, a familiar trope in many horror films. The very first time we see Cody's dreams turn from whimsical to ghoulish would count as the scariest scene.
Writer-director-editor Mike Flanagan had to also tread a line between tenderness and dread which his story called for. He was able to do so with effective performances by Tremblay and Bosworth, aided by appropriate visual effects, both delicate and nightmarish. Overall though, it succeeds more as a drama than as horror. 6/10.