Synopsis: A teenage runaway takes part in a sleep study that becomes a nightmarish descent into the depths of her mind and a frightening examination of the power of dreams.
Stars: Julia Sarah Stone, Landon Liboiron, Tedra Rogers, Chantal Perron, Caroline Buzanko, Orin McCusker, Elena Porter, Brandon DeWyn, Karen Johnson-Diamond, Christopher Heatherington, Carlee Ryski, Austin Baker
Director: Anthony Scott Burns
Running Length: 105 minutes
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: I think I was born with a raging case of FOMO because I’ve always been a terrible sleeper. Naps were nonexistent as a child and I was never one of those high schoolers that slept through their alarm like in some cliché teen comedy. I stayed up late in college and preferred early morning classes so I could keep my afternoons free for, what else?, catching an early movie matinee if I felt like it. I’m sure it has wound up taking a toll on my health in some way, but I’ve just had this aversion to sleep and perhaps that’s why movies about beddy-bye time have continued to intrigue me.
Aside from the obvious Freddy franchise that kicked off with the landmark A Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, plenty of films have explored the endless possibilities of dreams and the dark side of nightmares, not to mention a slew of documentaries following sleep studies and what we can learn from why and how we sleep. The entire process is fascinating if you delve deep into dreamland and I’m always on the lookout for a new film coming down the pike that wants to dip into these waters. Taking stock of what has come before and then seeing what they can stir up can be fun, especially if it’s being released by an independent horror studio that has a solid track record for picking winners.
At the outset, director Anthony Scott Burns Come True, being released by IFC Midnight, has the makings of giving you a fine little thrill that doesn’t give one inch in the way of hinting at what’s going to happen from scene to scene. Viewers are dropped into one story that’s reached its climax just as another is about to begin. So we’re asked to keep track of where we’re going while piecing together how we got here in the first place. Gradually, it becomes obvious Burns has gone and gathered so many ideas that it overwhelms the central core of his narrative and things outright collapse, only to be blown to smithereens by a sure to be controversial ending.
For some reason, Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) doesn’t want to go home, preferring to sleep in a nearby playground and only briefly sneak back to grab some food and a change of clothes before heading off to school. Looking weary and wary, she asks to stay at a friend’s house for a time but that isn’t going to solve her long-standing problem at home or do away with the haunting dreams she’s been having where she’s being pursued by a malevolent figure. Coming across an ad for a sleep study that would pay her to sleep in a bed every night, she can’t believe her good luck and applies for the opportunity.
Joining a small group of test subjects, Sarah’s dreams become more vivid and eventually cross the line into reality with deadly results. With occasional answers being provided by a research assistant (Landon Liboiron) who falls for Sarah quickly as he watches her sleep (um, weird) and the other subjects either dropping out, getting injured, or worse, Sarah becomes convinced there’s more to the overall study that meets the eye. The longer she participates, the closer the monster in her dreams gets to catching up with her until it’s too late for anyone to stop what’s coming forth.
For only his second feature film, Burns definitely went all in and made sure the movie was his singular vision. Serving as the director, writer, cinematographer, and composer (with Electric Youth) of the synth heavy but all together perfect score, it never feels like he didn’t know when to self-edit. Consider that remarkable when you think how often directors can barely do two things without it seeming like too much for them to make tough decisions on. The visuals alone are enough to recommend the movie in some fashion. It’s rare to see dreams put on screen with such clarity or cleverness but Burns has done it and they’re both distinctive and disturbing at the same time.
Where Burns does suffer some is in the newbie-ness that comes with being a junior member of the indie directors coming up right now. The first thing he has to do is find someone to show him how to direct a sex scene because there’s one in Come True that is so uncomfortably awkward I had to put my hands over my face until it was over. I can’t explain it, you’ll just have to witness it for yourself. Then there’s that ending which is just a love it or hate it kind of deal and I just c-o-u-l-d-n’t go with it…sorry, but I couldn’t. Not when applied to what came before in the previous 100 minutes. If you’re going to throw a wrench in your already twisted plot, make sure it’s at least part of the same family of tools.
While IFC Midnight isn’t having quite the rock ‘em, sock ‘em year they had in 2020, their titles so far in 2021 (The Night, The Vigil) have been more cerebral than anything else and there’s room for those in the horror genre as well. Come True follows suit which I supposed keeps it on brand. While it may leave viewers scratching their heads when the credits roll, up until then the stuff the dreams are made of are a pretty psychologically scarred picture indeed.