Be it Freddy Kruger’s boiler room in A Nightmare on Elm Street, pulling off heists in Inception, or Fellini’s fantasies in 81/2, the world of dreams has often been fertile ground to explore in cinema across many different genres. They are perhaps most fitting to the horror genre, what with the potential of creating nightmarish landscapes and subconscious imagery. Playing on anxieties and fears of individuals. Come True is the latest to create a horror experience around the images that unfurl in our minds when we shut our eyes to catch some z’s, and it is one that demonstrates a great deal of potential in its emerging director.
Julia Sarah Stone stars as Sarah, a teenage runaway who has been sleeping rough, occasionally relying on the charity of her best friend to provide a roof over her head. She also keeps having strange dreams featuring a looming shadowy figure. Keen to both get some rest and maybe find out what’s causing such weird dreams, Sarah signs up to a sleep study at the local university. Once there, she soon discovers the nature of the experiment is to test out a new, potentially groundbreaking, piece of technology; a device that, when worn, is capable of relaying the images that the wearer sees in their dreams. As Sarah gets deeper into the experiment, it soon becomes clear that her dreams may be more dangerous than she could have ever believed.
Come True, directed by Anthony Scott Burns, is never quite what it seems. But from the very beginning of its atmospheric opening credits, where the first chords of Electric Youth and Pilotpriest’s haunting score come in, the film wraps you up in its spell. We see Sarah’s dreams before she is put under the microscope as it were, and the landscape of her nightmarish world is often disturbing but undeniably captivating with their heady mix of surrealism and unnerving horror. With a camera gliding through greyscale environments, we hurtle past disturbing shapes, spectres and bodies, unable to stop moving towards figures designed to be feared. Come True creates a very unsettling atmosphere, one that immediately makes you concerned for Sarah’s mental well being, and hooks you into the film very quickly.
Out in reality, Sarah’s life is clearly not in a great place, often spending her nights sleeping outside and staying away from her mother for reasons which are never fully made clear to us. Julia Sarah Stone’s expressive performance wraps you further into Sarah’s journey, as we become increasingly worried for her wellbeing. Particularly as the experiment begins to showcase that something even more sinister is going on in the world of her dreams.
Stone’s performance, and these dives into the surreal in the first two thirds make Come True an intriguingly unnerving experience. Paired with a fascinating sci-fi horror concept in the form of the device that visualises dreams, Come True establishes itself as a unique horror experience that has some fresh and original ideas driving it. As well as a strong character at its focus. It has all the ingredients to look like it can emerge as a new indie cult favourite. But alas, like many horror movies before it with such high concepts within them, it just can’t stick the landing.
Much of the atmosphere and genuinely scary build-up unfortunately comes tumbling down on itself pretty quickly, as the final third gets rolling. It all starts to become somewhat shaky when a romantic subplot enters the fray, a thread which is not particularly well developed or indeed all that is necessary. The very final moments undermine much of your investment, as the otherwise very smart film takes some rather baffling turns with a twist ending that is more likely to leave you laughing in disbelief than shocked or stunned by its revelations. It is a pity, as Come True absolutely nails its atmosphere and concept in its opening stretch, but it would not be the first horror to struggle to know where to take its final act (nor will it be the last).
Come True will likely earn many fans for the sense of mystery and palpable fear that its imagery and concept often conjures throughout its setup. It does unfortunately veer off something of a cliff in its final moments, shattering the well constructed atmosphere into pieces. But, it is not enough to rob the film of the impact that it does have in its strongest moments. With sequences here standing as some of the most eye-catching and genuinely unsettling moments in recent genre memory.
Dir: Anthony Scott Burns
Scr: Anthony Scott Burns, story by Daniel Weissenberger
Cast: Julia Sarah Stone, Landon Liboiron, Skylar Radzion, Tiffany Helm, Chantal Perron, Tedra Rogers
Prd: Steven Hoban, Mark Smith, Brent Kawchuk
DOP: Anthony Scott Burns
Music: Electric Youth and Pilotpriest
Runtime: 105 minutes
Come True is available in select cinemas from 12th March, on Digital Download from 15th March, and on Limited Edition Blu-ray from 5th April.