True Fiction

The best word to describe the indie chiller True Fiction would probably be “devious.” Plenty of twisted things happen over the course of ninety minutes, and the film delights in continually subverting your expectations. Every time you think you have it all figured out, some new twist proves you wrong. This fast-paced and bloody tale recently had its world premiere at the Fantaspoa film festival.

Avery Malone (Sara Garcia) is a deeply insecure aspiring writer. A major opportunity for career advancement comes when she is hired to be the assistant to her favorite novelist, Caleb Conrad (John Cassini). When Avery arrives at his remote, isolated home, she discovers that being his assistant requires more than getting coffee or printing out drafts. Caleb asks her to participate in a sick “game” allowing him to put her in terrifying situations so that he can study her fear for his new book. No further plot synopsis should occur. Just assume that things go very, very badly for everyone involved.

True Fiction is crisply directed by Braden Croft, who also wrote the screenplay. He stages the action and scare beats well, so that the danger to Avery is palpable. Croft also effectively ratchets up the tension. Sometimes he lets an eerie moment hang, just to make the audience hold its collective breath in anticipation. Other times, he shocks us with a sudden jolt of violence. The result is that you never fully let your guard down as you watch.

The performances are quite good. Avery's character arc is admittedly a predictable horror convention – timid young woman has to find her inner rage in order to survive – yet Garcia makes it credible. (The film's biggest flaw is that we never fully understand why Avery would consent to being subjected to terror, but that's the screenplay's issue, not Garcia's.) Cassini, meanwhile, smartly keeps Caleb's intentions shrouded in mystery. We're kept guessing as to whether he's a monster or if he really is just trying to study fear by making someone experience it.

To be fair, True Fiction requires a suspension of disbelief, which may put off some viewers. This isn't intended to be a 100% realistic thriller. Instead, it wants to make viewers question what is real and what isn't. Wild twists and turns come at regular intervals. Some are a little hard to swallow if you demand pure, unassailable logic. Get on the movie's wavelength, though, and tracking the zig-zag plot can offer some mind-bending entertainment, especially when it's made with this much style.

True Fiction is unrated, but contains language and graphic bloody violence. The running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes.