If I Die Before I Wake (1998)

This is a low budget movie and proves not all low-budget thrillers are bad. I’m still holding my breath from this one. “If I Die Before I Wake” opens on a dark night and starts off very fast with three hillbillies breaking into a house. Quickly they beging terrorizing and torture the poor defenseless suburban family within their home. The oldest daughter realizes her house is being infiltrated early, and hides herself and her little sister, devising a plan to get back at the murderers and defend her house once and for all. “If I Die Before I Wake” is an excellent thriller, mainly for the atmosphere and breakneck pacing.

For a low-budget movie the atmosphere is haunting and the tone chilling, with great directing. There’s great tension and catches us with our guards down often. The acting is pretty good for people that are not major Hollywood actors. The main heroine played by Stephanie Jones is great as she shows a range of emotions throughout, as she strategizes and builds up enough courage to attack, all while witnessing the relentless carnage and violence that ensues around her. This movie reminded me of “The Desperate Hours” only a lot more violent, with an emphasis ont tormenting this seemingly mundane family.

After a while it over did it with violence and became just plain disturbing. Some audiences might be turned off by the mean spirit, as we see some disturbing rape scenes which we witness up-close. The camera never cuts away and mercilessly gives us the image. We sadly never get to know the family that is terrorized which I found annoying because it was tough feeling sorry when one of them was killed or tortured. We never get a good reason why all this happens to them, nor do we get a true motive except the reason that the hillbillies tend to enjoy the violence. It’s a little hard to believe that in such a small neighborhood that no one could hear the screams of help.

That said, the suspense is excellent, it’s so gripping and tense. There were times where I was on the edge of my seat squirming. I could feel this girl’s desperation. “If I Die Before I Wake” grips the audience by the throat and never lets go. Brian Katkin’s film is highly, highly, recommended and if you ever go to a rental store and find this on the rack, rent it. It’s highly suggested.