‘Before I Wake’: Do you know the Canker Man?

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A grieving couple who recently lost their only son decide to adopt a young boy with extraordinary, and incredibly dangerous, powers!

What you have to understand, keep it forefront in your mind because the Hobsons sure did, is that Sean’s death was an accident. Dad Mark (Thomas Jane) wasn’t there, Mom Jessie (Kate Bosworth) stepped away for just a minute or two, tops, and Sean drowned in only a few inches of water in the bathtub. It as an accident, yes, group therapy understands this and all that guilt and everything else Mom and Dad deal with, but they’ve chosen to attempt to fill that awful void now. By adopting a young orphan boy of similar approximate age to Sean (Antonio Romero) named Cody.

We know Cody (Jacob Tremblay) was the poor soul with a gun pointed at him from the opening blip of the film, so we gather the kid has something unique about him that potentially inspires murder, but what it turns out to be is far better, and terrifyingly much worse, than anyone could have guessed.

Yes, I am going to spoil it for everyone; deal. Cody is extraordinarily gifted in that, wait for it, his dreams can literally come true. We know Cody loves butterflies; the Hobsons encounter a cross between a firefly and a Monarch, lighting up their living room like fairies. We know Cody wants to please the Hobsons, they certainly seem like gentle, caring souls; what could possibly make grieving parents the happiest?

From this question, as Jessie begins to clutch at Cody like an addict, we learn at least some of the extent of Cody’s powers – he had to have heard Sean’s voice to make his dream complete, so Jessie played him a video of the Hobson family previous Christmas, complete with Sean in his jammies everywhere, laughing and giggling and being alive. And next thing you know, the addict and her husband have both had a fix, a drug in the form of a little sad, scared boy who genuinely only wants to be good, but just can’t help getting scared sometimes. That’s when shit gets hairy.

Cody is a bright child, very bright as it turns out, and his desires when awake to be helpful and good everywhere are noble, absolutely. But he is still a child, and when he sleeps and can’t help but fear, this malevolent force Cody named the Canker Man, manifests in all its shuddersome glory. The Canker Man comes, and he/it is without mercy or pity, there is no stopping the Canker Man at all, he/it usually pops out and carts off the main person Cody has come to love, and ultimately, fear for too. They just poof, disappear, into utter nothingness – there is NO stopping the Canker Man.

After Mark gets effectively eaten by the Canker Man, Jessie decides to do some investigating of her own. A visit to the orphanage Cody came from and some talk with his caretaker Natalie (Annabeth Gish), fraught discussion with Cody’s former foster father in a nuthouse too, and Jessie believes she knows what needs to be done to save that poor abandoned boy, finally.

No child should be chided for their fears, but they do need to be taught how to deal with them as a proper civilized person would, and Cody, way more so than your average kid, because he simply isn’t your average kid. Most, not all but most, children need a caring mother, and not all families are born from blood. Jessie clearly demonstrates that a mothers love can embrace all monsters, show courage in the face of nebulous black fears, and forgive damn near anything you might have done as an utterly terrified child.

Before I Wake does an excellent job at showcasing the wonders and terrors imminent in raising a child, regardless of whether that child came from your own loins or not. Children are often presented in horror films as the only ones who can see the monsters, and therefore think they have to deal with them all alone, never believed, always condemned for events they honestly did not do. While ‘Before I Wake’ takes a fun twist on this kiddie-Horror concept, the handling of raising gifted children and parental grief is something we can all appreciate, and Netflix approached the story with grace and love.

Don’t let the Canker Man get you, catch his nasty truth in Before I Wake on Netflix now!