Dreams are a difficult space to navigate in life, let alone on screen. There’s an intangible quality that makes them very difficult to grasp in any substantive way, at least, for the purposes of linear storytelling. That said, the complexity of how dreams are produced by our brains is fascinating and I’m always curious to see how filmmakers use it in their storytelling. Low-budget, sci-fi-horror always piques my interest, and Come True navigates that space with haunting imagery and an ambitious imagination.
Anthony Scott Burns was a one-man-army on this film, directing, writing the screenplay, serving as cinematographer, and even working on the original music (alongside Pilotpriest and Electric Youth). In no uncertain terms, this is his movie. It’s only his second feature as a director but, as a Canadian filmmaker, the Cronenberg influences are readily apparent. It looks and feels like it’s a late 80’s/early 90’s film too, all the way down to the vast majority of the tech used in the movie. If there hadn’t been a smartphone in a few particular scenes, this could have easily passed as a period piece. That’s not a knock against it either, it would have been mostly right at home with Scanners and Videodrome. The style is definitely intentional and shooting in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada gave it a much different screen-presence.
The visual storytelling is strong, from the creepy dream sequences to the coldness of the blue tint, and the original music helps set an ominous tone for the plot. However, the dream entry visualization did become a bit redundant and self-indulgent over the course of an hour and 45-minutes. The movie does a great job setting the mood for the audience but it tends to linger in its VFX with slow, continuous rolling shots that are (definitely chilling but) almost entirely atmospheric. The movie feels like it’s spinning its wheels a little in those moments and could have used a little trim in the editing room.
I really enjoyed Julia Sarah Stone in the lead as Sarah Dunne. As a teenage runaway who’s looking for a roof over her head, Stone brings a kind of lost quality to the performance that hits the mark. Once she joins the sleep study, naturally, things aren’t what they seemed but Stone remains quietly magnetic as the film pushes darker.
The cast is pretty small overall, with supporting roles from Landon Liboiron (Hemlock Grove), Carlee Ryksi, and Christopher Heatherington rounding out the main characters. It would have been nice to see some of the visual doldrums get replaced with more depth and detail on the clinical side of the equation which would have helped enrich those supporting characters.
It’s always nice to see ambitious projects with unique voices and Come True certainly qualifies. Burns will be an interesting filmmaker to watch over the next few years as he refines his style, and Stone’s standout performance could really catalyze her career after a very busy 2020.
Recommendation: Low-budget sci-fi isn’t for everybody, but these films take a lot of imagination and creativity to pull off, and Come True has both of those.