Come True follows Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone), a homeless teenager who is plagued by disturbed sleep. She decides to participate in a sleep study, which quickly descends into an exploration of her own nightmares.
Stone is incredible as the lead. The audience is not provided with many details as to why Sarah does not have the life of a normal teenager. Therefore, we are left to rely on Stone’s interpretation. Aided by neon lighting and bleak surroundings, Sarah perennially looks troubled to the point of physical illness. The audience witnesses something that will be familiar to most of them: life is commanded by sleep. This is essential to set the scene for the importance of dreams.
From the beginning of the film, before the sleep study and the more obvious focus on nightmares, the viewer is asked to pay as much attention to this realm as they do when they are awake. Through Stone’s vivid performance and writer/director Anthony Scott Burns’ precise writing, this is done in an intensely personal manner. Unlike many others of its genre, Come True does not sacrifice personal conflict for the philosophical. The nightmares originate in Sarah’s own experiences.
For a film about dreams, visuals are essential, because that is often all we can recall of our dreams. While it is easy to create a dream sequence that merely scares, it is more difficult to crafts one which taps into unconscious fears. Come True not only delivers on this aspect but offers memorable imagery capable of scaring even those unaffected by sleep disorders. It smartly uses a combination of familiar objects and figures, such as a bicycle or a toy, with a twist that makes them almost unrecognizable. This is done by setting the scenes in black and white, with dark lighting and odd framing.
Then, of course, the sleep paralysis. There are so many misconceptions surrounding this topic, frustrating to hear for those who have experienced it. It is often trivialized and demonized, dismissed as either a dream or a hallucination you need to wake up from. Come True finally explores it in a deserving way. Not only is the image of the luring demon incredibly accurate, but it’s crucially not discounted as ‘just a dream’. We see this in the way characters surrounding the protagonist react to these images: with horror appropriate to how scary these disturbances can be. Burns clearly understands how important dreams are. It’s refreshing to see how the terror they can cause does not immediately stop once the protagonist wakes up. In fact, Burns questions the very notion of waking up with the ending of the film.
The visuals are aided by the direction. With fluid camera movements and intentional framing, Burns knows just how much of the “monster” is needed on camera for an optimal scare. The camera slowly and inexorably moves forward, reproducing the eerie atmosphere of a dream from which it is impossible to escape. In fact, much like in real life, the horror of these images derives from their mysterious nature. The viewer is rarely able to clearly define just what they are watching, and in the rare moments we see them clearly, they are shown for just a brief instant. The director knows when to pull back and allow the viewer to fill in the horrifying details on their own.
Anthony Scott Burns crafts a film filled with uncomfortably familiar visuals reminiscing of our most commonly repressed nightmares. This film has all the elements of a being a great cult-hit, meaning that it will only improve upon future viewings. Right now, though, it’s a deeply personal and disturbing feature on the importance of dreams.
Words By Elisabetta Pulcini
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