Come True is one of the most chilling, hypnotic, and meticulously-crafted horror movies I've seen in years. Writer/director Anthony Scott Burns' last film was Our House, of which I was a huge fan. He's outdone himself here. From the opening shot, it creates a pervasive sense of eeriness that never diminishes until the end credits start to roll.
Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) is a teenage runaway who has taken to sleeping on the sliding board at a local playground. She suffers from disturbing nightmares in which she glides through dark hellscapes filled with mysterious doors, filthy holes in walls, and corridors littered with mangled bodies. In need of a better place to lay her head, Sarah signs up for a university sleep study. All she has to do is show up every night, put on a weird outfit that monitors her sleep patterns, and collect a nice paycheck. Aside from giving her a safe place to spend the night, being part of the experiment could help with the bad dreams.
Unbeknownst to Sarah, the staff at the facility, led by the enigmatic Dr. Meyer (Christopher Heatherington), has found a way to capture images of what people are dreaming on specially-designed video monitors. What they see in her dreams immediately grabs their attention. Sarah starts having peculiar, intense anxiety attacks after a few nights, leading her to wonder what's going on. She confronts one of the students, Jeremy (Landon Liboiron), for answers.
Saying any more about the plot of Come True would be to hint at its ultimate direction, and I don't want to do that. Burns has carefully structured the story so you get pieces of the puzzle at very specific times. It can safely be said that sleep paralysis – a phenomenon in which people have scary hallucinations in a state somewhere between wake and sleep – has something to do with it. You can probably guess for yourself that Meyer and team don't fully understand that they're playing with fire.
The nightmare sequences in the movie are downright shiver-inducing. Burns moves his camera in a slow, straight line, traversing through foggy, dirty settings, one of which blends right into the next. Shadowy figures pass by or emerge from the darkness ahead. One particularly unnerving shot is made to look almost as though the teeth of some hell-creature are closing around the edges of the frame, as if to swallow us. There is so much creativity, so much ingenuity in the design of these phantasmagoria scenes. They're haunting, helping to set the stage for the plot occurring in the non-dream world.
Julia Sarah Stone is excellent, giving the creepy proceedings a strong human center. The actress makes Sarah someone we greatly empathize with, especially as she begins to realize that participating in the process has opened the door to something bad. Burns is smart to tell the story methodically, so that we get pieces of the puzzle at the same time she does. In that sense, we're on the journey with her. Each new revelation adds to the horror, causing Sarah to realize something dreadful is looming.
Come True makes the very idea of sleeping seem sinister. It utilizes not just sleep paralysis, but also hypnogogia, the transitional state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep where hallucinations, involuntary twitches, and flashes of strange imagery can occur. The film takes something we generally consider restful and turns it into a harrowing proposition, pointing out that we're vulnerable and not in control at this time. From there, it wonders what sinister things might potentially happen if sleep disorders were to grow out of control.
That's the important takeaway. Come True is a mystery set within the uncharted areas of the human brain. The movie assumes viewers are intelligent enough to follow its twisty plot and the horrific implications that spring from it. Burns is in full control as a director, confident in the power of his vision. He has delivered a story about nightmares that is guaranteed to give you some.
out of four
Come True is unrated, but contains adult language, sexuality, disturbing images, and one scene of bloody violence. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.