23rd Mar2021

‘Come True’ VOD Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Julia Sarah Stone, Landon Liboiron, Carlee Ryski, Christopher Heatherington, Tedra Rogers | Written and Directed by Anthony Scott Burns

Stylishly directed, shot and edited by Anthony Scott Burns (Our House), this creepy Canadian sci-fi horror takes a nightmarish peek into the subconscious. Combining strong visuals with an intriguing mystery plot and at least one state-of-the-art jump scare, Come True brings new meaning to the term sleeper hit.

Julia Sarah Stone plays 18 year-old Sarah Dunne, a high school student whose relationship with her mother has soured to the point where she’s effectively a runaway, though she still pops home under cover of darkness to pick up things like a sleeping bag and her laptop. Tired of kipping overnight in a child’s playground, she jumps at the chance to participate in a sleep study, where she’s hooked up to a bunch of machines and is observed every night by Dr. Meyer (Christopher Heatherington) and his assistants, led by nerdy Riff (Landon Liboiron) and jittery Anita (Carlee Ryski).

After forging a slightly creepy connection with Riff, Sarah discovers Meyer and his team are using a technology that allows them to watch her dreams, which are rendered in primitive graphic form on monitors, all lights and shadows. However, when Sarah experiences a severe panic attack after being shown an image from her dreams, she starts to wonder what the sleep clinic is really studying and whether there’s something dark and terrifying lurking in her own subconscious.

Burns’ slow-burn storytelling is extremely effective, gradually introducing a haunting, shadowy figure in Sarah’s dreams (with glowing eyes, no less) and then cleverly using that figure in a number of different ways, without ever giving it a name or explaining what it might mean. Consequently, the dreamscape images get progressively scarier, culminating in what is almost certainly one of the best jump scares you’ll see this year.

On top of that, Burns does a terrific job with the film’s pacing, slowly building the central mystery and cranking up tension before unleashing a gripping set-piece in the final act that has echoes of The Blair Witch Project. Similarly, Burns creates a powerfully creepy atmosphere throughout, thanks to a canny combination of production design (the sleep study uniforms look like something out of Tron or THX 1138) and off-kilter lighting – the sleep study monitoring room is bathed in purple, while many sequences are lit with a distinctive blue-green colour.

The dreams themselves are genuinely haunting too, consisting of floating shadowy figures and strange black shapes that the camera is pulled into, like it’s being swallowed up by the darkness. They’re distinctive enough to get their own credit at the end of the film, which reads “dreams created and rendered with Maxon Cinema 4D and Redshift Renderer”, just in case you wanted to try and visualise your own nightmares at home.

Come True is further heightened by a terrific synth-based score, courtesy of Electric Youth and Pilotpriest, although there’s a moment in the film where the sudden use of a song on the soundtrack backfires because the score has managed perfectly well without them up to that point and it seems jarring.

The film also falls foul of the clumsy name-drop (always the result of scriptwriters desperate to show off their influences) by having a character awkwardly reference Philip K. Dick and his “genius concepts”. Speaking of which, there are also oddly placed posters for The Terminator and, um, Weekend at Bernie’s. Make of that what you will.

As for the performances, Stone is superb as Sarah, investing her with a heart-breaking, child-like vulnerability (she looks much younger than 18) while also making her progressively more and more exhausted as the film goes on. Landon Liboiron is equally good as Riff (the explanation of his nickname is also a film reference, but a rather brilliant one) and the film deserves credit for one of the most unsettling sex scenes in recent memory. There’s strong support from Ryski, whose own nervousness adds considerably to the tension of the final act.

In fairness, the ending of Come True doesn’t quite work – it attempts an ambitious double twist, but neither of them quite deliver the impact the film is obviously going for. That slight disappointment aside, this remains a stylish, atmospheric and visually interesting sci-fi horror that, for the most part, is refreshingly original and marks out both Burns and Stone as talents to watch.

***½  3.5/5

Come True is available on digital now from Lightbulb Film.


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