Review: Come True

Director: Anthony Scott Burns

Stars: Julia Sarah Stone, Landon Liboiron, Carlee Ryski

There must be something in the water up in Canada. Certainly it seems to be the place to go for indie treats that blur the boundaries between science fiction and horror, and a new generation is gamely taking up the baton. We have Brandon Cronenberg carrying on the family legacy, and we also have Anthony Scott Burns, whose Come True has washed ashore quietly in the UK on DVD and blu-ray to spread more insidious poison into our minds. 

If only it had greater press and more reach. Come True is one of those genre films that feels packed with qualities that merit greater attention and appreciation. 

Julia Sarah Stone plays Sarah Dunne; a teenage runaway who is troubled by nightmares of a dark chasm lined with ominous monoliths and home to a mysterious muscular figure. One day while grabbing a coffee, Sarah happens upon a flier for a university sleep study. Needful of cash and curious about her night terrors, she signs up.

The building where the study takes place is a wonderfully brutalist hulk of concrete that readily connects Come True to the early student films of David Cronenberg, particularly Stereo. It shares a kindred spirit of quasi-legitimate scientic theory cross-pollinating with wilder Lovecraftian philosophies. This does not mean tentacles, but rather the interior labyrinths of the human mind that might just manifest genuine demons. At it’s heart, Come True scratches the same old itch that preoccupied the likes of Hellraiser or A Nightmare on Elm Street – what if the monsters of our nightmares were real?

So there’s a mix of landmark influence and precedents at play here, but Burns manages to imprint his movie with a strong sense of its own identity. There’s a sense of perpetual twilight to Come True that even crosses over into its daylight hours; a fluid dreaminess that makes itself present in cadences of speech, the lighting, and in the sinuous synthy score provided by the band Electric Youth (the outfit behind the song “A Real Hero” made famous on the Drive soundtrack). The cool blue colour palette and deep focus that defines much of the film gives it a deliberately submerged quality, adding to the sense of experiencing something that itself risen from some unknown or unknowable space. 

As much as the narrative pricks enduring insecurities about what happens to us while we sleep, Come True stands as a wonderful showcase for both an up-and-coming filmmaker fascinated with ideas, and its focal actor. Sporting a shock of tufty white-blonde hair and with piercing eyes, Stone’s Sarah has the look of an anime character come to life, but it is her presence and power in the role that makes her stand apart from the other players. She takes hold of this leading opportunity and presents us a serious person, fiery and vulnerable. It would be heartening to see Come True lead to more great work from her. 

Study theorist, enthusiastic mansplainer and Harry Potter lookalike Jeremy (Landon Liboiron) starts stalking Sarah outside of the study. I’m making a bit of an assumption here, but given the extent to which Jeremy takes control of the narrative drive, it feels as though the character is a pointed avatar for Burns as the film’s creator. With that in mind, it’s appreciated that he takes time for a spot of self-reflection and addresses how exceedingly creepy Jeremy’s behaviour is. 

Nevertheless, the dynamic between Sarah and Jeremy seems inexorably drawn toward the romantic and, as things progress, their inevitable coupling steers the film into an hypnotic third act, one which finds Come True sleepwalking into its own eerie logic, way off the map from conventional storytelling, but perfectly in-keeping with traditions of both science fiction and horror narratives. Initially, the film is divided up by chapter inter-titles. These more or less disappear by the second half of the film. It’s as though what started off as an adaptation of a traditionally structured narrative has drifted into its own sleep state. As though we’ve drifted off while watching and the themes and images are spinning new threads in our subconscious. The movie itself has sunk into REM sleep and rules are easily abandoned. 

The film’s rousing final moments may well prove contentious. Is Come True too explicit in it’s eleventh hour reveals? Or, conversely, is it too coy? Too slippery with the ‘truth’? These are questions that the film deliberately provokes, furthering another great tradition of genre writing – the pointedly ambiguous. It lives on with you after it has finished, looping back, haunting waking hours like a recurring dream. Successfully and satisfyingly resolute or not, it stands as a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece of work.

Sleep well.

 

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