Come True (2021)
Written & Directed by Anthony Scott Burns
Certain movies hit my personal aesthetics so perfectly I love them immediately. Beyond the Black Rainbow and It Follows are two films that sit in that dreamlike 80s-ish wheelhouse. They don’t spam cultural references to get across their implied eras; they just exude the vibe. When you watch them, it feels like that movie you saw when you were up way too late, half asleep, not sure if you remember it quite right. They are movies where you don’t need concrete logic; you just need them to feel a certain way. Come True is another picture I can add to that list. Its blend of visuals and music made me immediately love it.
Sara (Julia Sarah Stone) has run away from home, sleeping at a nearby playground on the slide. She’s a senior in high school who has had some sort of problems with her mom and refuses to go back. Crashing at a friend’s house doesn’t seem to be working, and by chance, Sara comes across a flyer for a sleep study. Sara is also curious about the bizarre dreams she’s having, floating through strange murky landscapes and always ending on the same shadowy figure looming before her. It seems like the scientists over the sleep study might have answers, but things in Sara’s life are making less & less sense. After a night of restful sleep at the institute, she seems better, but she wakes up exhausted the next night. Things take an even darker turn when she’s shown images from her own dreams, and they send her into a fit.
A few years back, I watched the horror anthology Holidays. For the most part, the film is garbage, but Anthony Scott Burns’ entry “Father’s Day” stood out to me. It was a well-paced, atmospheric horror story that hit all the right notes. I was happy to see him directing features now and couldn’t be more pleased by Come True. What’s critical to Come True is the collaboration between the director and his composers Electric Youth. Electric Youth will likely be familiar to fans of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (“Real Human Being”). Their music sets the correct tone for the feature from scene one; it will remind you of shoegaze 80s favorites and fits the film’s theme with its dreamlike qualities.
It’s also clear that Burns is a big fan of David Cronenberg. Both filmmakers are Canadians, and Burns’ story concerns experimental technology and questions about human consciousness, both significant elements in Cronenberg’s filmography. There is certainly not the level of gory body horror present in the older director’s movies; Burns opts for unsettling mood-building. Even the dreamscapes we glimpse throughout the film are more eerie than overtly horrific. The most intense scene we get happens around midway through the movie when a character sees a strange multi-legged being in a dream. There’s also heaps of ambiguity here, which will turn some viewers off, but I loved it. I don’t always think leaving things open to interpretation is the right call; it depends on the type of film or story you’re telling. For a narrative deeply entrenched in dream logic, it works perfectly.
I’ve seen that the film’s reception is mixed online, particularly around the ending of the movie. Without giving away any details, I would say the conclusion worked for me, but I had to think about it for a bit. Some elements may seem like they’ve come out of left field, but I would go back to the dreamy logic of the movie. There’s not a clear demarcation, but somewhere during the picture, things changed, and we began seeing moments happening more in line with how you would expect a dream to flow. There is a big visual cue that you’re meant to link back to another moment in the movie; Sara also makes that connection when she sees it, which explains her reaction.
I wouldn’t try to tell you that you’ll love Come True as much as I did. For me, it just hit that particular set of artistic and aesthetic buttons. However, I can also see how many other people don’t share the same sentiments and have different aesthetics they enjoy better. If you like the feel of 1980s media but not necessarily the nostalgia cesspool it has become with more popular fare, then I think Come True will click for you as well. This is a slow burn movie that kept me caught up in the narrative the whole time, a film possibly enjoyed on an edible where you are just sitting back, relaxing, and letting it float you away to a place familiar and nightmarish.