A teenage runaway takes part in a sleep study that becomes a nightmarish descent into the depths of her mind and a frightening examination of the power of dreams.
Have you ever had a dream so vivid you felt you could actually die? Or perhaps one so surreal and confusing that it made you question if the world you’re living in right now is indeed real? The truth is, everyone has. Dreams have long been a theme tackled by all kinds of media in many of its aspects. But what about its effects on our waking world? What if the shadows in the corner of your room late at night aren’t just a coat rack?
That is one of the questions the experiment in the 2021 horror/scifi movie Come True seeks to answer. Today Adam, Aubry, Thomas and I (Victor) bring you a review of this very interesting movie. So please, take a seat and follow these four humble Oneiroi on their journey across the gates of horn and ivory into the treacherous fields of the lands of Morpheus.
This is one of those horror films where every aesthetic element feels carefully considered and designed to contribute to the whole terrifying effect. The neon pastel lighting used throughout the film synched perfectly with the synth-based soundtrack, and both were more unnerving than you would imagine. There is so much uniquely disturbing imagery in this movie that it’s hard to think of what visuals I would like to talk about the most, but I think the dream sequences really got to me. They are obvious CG (clearly intentional) and always feature a sequence where the dreamer’s vision is moving on a slow track forward through an intensely unsettling landscape, with the camera never deviating its forward movement. It gives the sensation of not being in control, and being driven forward through the hellscapes, each time knowing what waits at the end and being unable to bail before you get there.
Come True is a movie that excels in many aspects, especially for people like me, who have dealt with Sleep Paralysis for a long time. The film uses its visual effects to the fullest, especially in its amazing dream sequences. They lead the curious mind to question everything on the screen. The lighting is also a pretty big plus in this movie, since it’s used masterfully to create a mysterious atmosphere, hide details in plain sight and make you question yourself. “Was there something there?”
I absolutely adored the dreamscapes and sound design in the production, the slow pan into a nightmare world of familiar yet distorted items create a great sense of unease. Additionally, this feels reflective of actual nightmares with times blurring the line between familiarity and fake recreations of our normal perceptions of them.
However, I found the shadow people to be more disturbing when removed from these sequences. The dream tech is really fascinating and being able to see these shadowy creatures escape into the world as these blurred figures was truly chilling. Overall, the productions visual and audio aesthetic is top notch and easily my favorite aspect.
The dreams have splendid special effects that constitute bespoke production design – they’re as immersive as they are weird, contributing to sequences that replicate the nightmarish quality to one’s unrestrained imagination in the dreamscape: unpredictable, otherworldly and haunting. With an energetic score and focused camerawork, it is a film that’s exceptional to behold as more a music video revolving around dreams – an audiovisual achievement that’s not mainstream in the approach.
Story and Characters
I really like Julia Sarah Stone who showed a lot of maturity and skill in her role of Sarah. She was an engaging protagonist and the weight of her struggle was well conveyed. On the flipside, I will admit I found Landon Liboiron as Jeremy to be kind of creepy and unlikable. His obsession with a high school girl, who makes a move immediately after hearing she is 18… did not sit well with me in context of the film. This also caused some weird flow issues for their story, as I did not really like the romantic angle injected into the plot. Essentially, any focuses on their ‘romance’ felt like a distraction from the other elements of the production which I enjoyed immensely.
Most characters in Come True are not that interesting. As the main character, Sarah’s life seems pretty genuinely hard. We don’t learn much about her, aside from the fact that she ran away from home for some reason and needs the money from the experiment. Besides her, the only other interesting characters in my opinion are Riff, a piece of shit blessed with the power to turn anything he touches to shit, and Anita, a scientist who feels like an actual person who cares for her job and wants to do the best she can. The rest of the characters feel more like tools to advance the plot, which ends up being pretty interesting, original and mysterious, filled with twists and turns. The biggest downfall is the ending, which takes a big doodoo on everything with a silly twist straight from a 2011 creepypasta.
The performances are nuanced – all of the characters seem relatively docile in their actions and reactions, constraining any weight to performances, while elaboration of their motives, including scenarios to explain these, were relatively inhibited. One could argue they were ‘going through the motions’ as true to a dream, however, as a reflection of the theme.
Julia Sarah Stone gives an intense and believable performance as Sarah, and it was delightful to see a teen character that felt like a teen without being trope-y. Most characters in the film had depth and intricacy, and none of them fell into the pitfall of being plot devices. The story flowed in a way that left me constantly caught off guard as to what would happen next, and at times followed a confounded dream logic that I really enjoyed. There is also a ton of Jungian dream theory laced through the story, most obviously that of “the shadow,” for those who like to dissect and over-analyze abstract horror to get to the bottom of “what is happening.” I am one of those folks, so I loved this aspect.
What to love
Much of the cinematography is reminiscent of the The Invisible Man (2020), with slow panning camera shots of hallways and open spaces that give you too much time to scan the background for movement or something that shouldn’t be there. I began compulsively looking and frequently pausing the movie… which paid off greatly. If you get a creepy sensation that something is amiss, pay close attention (and that is all I will say).
The best part of the movie, aside from the awesome dream sequences, is how it makes you question EVERYTHING. Why is this character dreaming this? What does it mean? Was that an egg? These are now some of the questions that keep me awake at night! Besides being great at making you scratch your brain a bit. As a journalist, these are the kinds of things I live for, unveiling mysteries and stuff. When a movie makes me start thinking, theorizing and taking notes, that’s when I know it’s getting to me.
The dream sequences and some of the tech involved, there is a particular scene just before the end where it all comes crashing together in a way that I just cant shake days later. Also, as someone who has suffered from issues of sleep paralysis and had visits from the shadow people in the past, Come True actually offers a pretty sensitive portrayal of the phenomenon. A sincere exploration of a real problem versus shock value or ‘creepypasta’ driven horror. Finally, I do think it is one of those films that makes creative choices to keep some things obscured and speculative. It is certainly a film that resonated with me for a few days and had me thinking, thanks to its abstract and open approach.
As a mood piece, it is an effective film as akin to a music video – a wonderfully electric score of synthwave, disturbing imagery occasionally to shatter any steady composure and deliberate cinematography that’s focused in muted colours. These elements combine well for setting a dreary atmosphere of the derealization we may experience from sleep deprivation – the film is almost a trance that’s insecure from the sporadic horror sequences to violate the calm in an underlying dread. The slow camerawork, stoic characters and creeping pace of the plot all contribute to the feeling of being in a dream where we search for meaning, existing in a limbo of consciousness in a strange tranquility where time seems to mean less.
What didn’t work for us
The characters are shallow, the plot has minimal exciting directions and any symbolism, or subtext intent, is overstated – it is a vague movie that’s closer to a visual experience (as with Neon Demon or Only God Forgives) above any conventional entertainment value. It feels aimless as sleepwalking and there’s no Lynchian dream logic interplayed to salvage a fundamentally weak script – none of their lofty Jungian concepts elevate any of the meaning, too, as superfluous. As a foray into experimentalism, while certainly possessing an undeniable aesthetic that mirrors a mood, I bemoan the lack of essential film components- exciting plot points, interesting characters and any profundity in actual purpose underlying all. Is it a ‘bold’ film designed as manipulative meta propaganda for numbing me into sleep as is the theme of the film…or merely dull?
What I definitely didn’t like, aside from the goofy ass ending, is Riff, who is probably the biggest fuckup in cinema history! If there is a bad choice to be made, you can feel pretty safe in assuming that our man will not only make it, but run with it and ignore each and everyone who tells him “hey, maybe don’t do that.” Wow, fuck Riff.
I did not like the ending, it felt like a bit of a cop-out and an attempt for depth that was just not there. Given all the various elements of the rest of the film being conveyed in a wonderful sense of mystery and a dark aesthetic, the film could have ended on a more ‘traditional’ horror sting and been more successful for it. As mentioned, I really did not like the character of Jeremy and found the romantic angle to be unnecessary at best and gross at its worse.
The ending fell somewhat flat for me. Without giving anything away, I think it was intended to be a thinker but it didn’t match the intensity of what came in previous scenes. It also seems to negate a lot of the existential horror that was set up previously. Maybe on a rewatch, or with some time to think, I will feel differently though. Honestly, in my opinion the film was nearly flawless otherwise. (Thomas and I will take this fight to the grave!)
Overall Scare Factor
In terms of scariness, the movie in itself is not as scary as it is unnerving for most people, but if you, like me, have gone through the existential horror of Sleep Paralysis, this movie will probably give you some sleepless nights.
Listen, I don’t scare easily, but this film had my heart racing the ENTIRE time. I also didn’t sleep the night after watching it, which hasn’t happened to me since the 2004 release of The Grudge. Come True does any amazing job of hitting horror on so many levels: creepy visuals that crawl into your head and refuse to leave, jump scares, and deep existential horror. It’s the latter that really got to me. As someone who suffers from many sleep ailments, Come True stepped to the void of our scientific understanding of sleep and forced us to watch as this void stared back. It was vastly uncomfortable to think of the dark recesses of the mind and be shown what might lurk there.
While the film does indeed have disturbing imagery, and an uncomfortable sensation from the dreamlike atmosphere interwoven with dread, I consider it as scary in the sense that ‘Altered States’ was – it is all in the atmosphere and thus insinuated, nothing explicit or tangible; the emphasis is more on the suspense for a menace behind all that’s an incomprehensible volatility. This kind of ‘abstract’ horror is difficult to fathom, however, as it cannot be quantified concretely in clear terms and the subjective experience of a viewer does vary drastically.
This film has gotten some early hype for being truly scary experience, and while I can see how it will come across to some I did not really find myself that disturbed overall. Rather I found myself more oddly obsessive with the world and the technology. More unsettling to my sentiments than scary, which I imagine it will be echoed by other viewers. It may have that shock value to some, but don’t go in with that expectation and try to enjoy it for what it is.
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