'Before I Wake' may never reach the big screen

Three-and-a-half years ago, Oculus and Hush filmmaker Mike Flanagan directed the supernatural fantasy-horror film Before I Wake, starring Kate Bosworth, Thomas Jane, Annabeth Gish, and a then unknown Jacob Tremblay. In the spring of 2014, it was announced that Relativity Media had acquired the U.S. distribution rights and the movie was scheduled for release in May 2015. So, why did the film never turn up at your local multiplex? On the most recent episode of director Mick Garris’ terrific movie podcast Post Mortem, Flanagan relayed the sad tale of how Relativity’s subsequent bankruptcy probably robbed Before I Wake of a theatrical release.

“It was a great deal, and it was a big fat wide release, and coming off of what they did with Oculus, it was like, This is going to be great,” Flanagan told Garris, whose own directing credits include the horror films Sleepwalkers and Riding the Bullet. “And so we sold the movie to Relativity, and we had a release date, and we were all set, and I moved on to the next project… And then things just got weird. Everything kind of stalled. We weren’t getting trailers and posters and materials. It was kind of cagey. We didn’t know it at first, but it was because of the collapse… And so they moved it off the date, and they didn’t really have a good reason, and they didn’t ask us to change anything, which was odd… And it was testing better than Oculus ever tested. We were in a really good place… We just couldn’t get these materials.”

“It was like, ‘Well where’s the marketing materials?'” he continued. “And we eventually found out that a lot of the vendors had cut them out because they had too much debt and so the vendors weren’t turning the materials over… And then we started to really learn about how much trouble the company was in, and they finally came to us, and it was like, ‘Yes, we’re going to file Chapter 11, but we’re confident we’re going to pull out of it.’ But they’d pushed the date back twice at that point, and we had had international buyers that had picked it up based on the wide release commitment in the States, and so we kicked and screamed and shook our fists, but there was no choice but to kind of wait it out and hope they emerged from bankruptcy and would pick up where they left off and do right by the movie.”

In the meantime, Tremblay’s profile had risen dramatically thanks to his acclaimed performance in 2015 drama Room. “He was seven when we shot and we thought, ‘We’ve made this incredible discovery, this kid is amazing!'” said Flanagan. “And we were in post on it when we heard that he was up for this movie called Room, and we shared some footage to try to help him out, and then Jacob just exploded, and he’s probably the most recognized and respected child actor out there right now.”

But Tremblay’s newfound fame has not helped Before I Wake gain a release, and Flanagan told Garris he would be surprised if the film ever made it to the big screen. “My suspicion — and I’m just speaking for myself — is that the theatrical option’s pretty well burned at this point,” said the director, whose next film will be a Netflix-backed adaptation of Stephen King’s novel Gerald’s Game. “Our international distributors waited for a while for Relativity, but then a lot of them just started releasing it, and so it got pirated very quickly, it ended up online very quickly, and then we had this kind of wave of… negative reviews that came in, mostly criticizing the movie for not being a horror movie and being marketed as one… So, between those reviews, and the fact that it’s been so exposed online, I’d be very surprised if after all these years somebody wanted to take a shot at it theatrically.”

Hear the full conversation between Flanagan and Garris at the PodcastOne website and watch the trailer for Before I Wake above.

UPDATE: Following the publication of the above article, Before I Wake director Mike Flanagan contacted EW to make clear that he is both very pleased with the way the film turned out and hopeful it will soon be available to watch in some form. “I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that the film will never be released — far from it,” said Flanagan. “I’m very proud of the movie, and we have a number of avenues that could get it to its audience, even if it doesn’t end up being a wide release.”

Credit: Mick Garris