A teenager with troubled dreams. Dreams that feature a malevolent being that wants to kill her. No, they haven’t rebooted A Nightmare on Elm Street again. It’s Come True, the second feature from Anthony Scott Burns (Our House), a science fiction horror hybrid involving dreams. nightmares, sleep studies, sleep paralysis and Shadow People. Can he pull all these elements together into a coherent story?
We first see Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone, The Unseen, Weirdos) in a sleeping bag, sleeping on a slide in a park. She’s left home, though still goes back when her mother’s gone to shower and grab some food. She also has sleep issues not related to finding a place to sleep. Recurring nightmares involving a strange dark figure that doesn’t have her best interests in mind.
She thinks she’s found the answer to her problems when she answers an ad for a sleep study. A safe place to sleep, possibly a fix for her problems, and she’ll be paid. Of course, t’s not that simple. Her dreams become worse, and the figure stalking them seems to be trying to cross over into our world.
If you’ve suffered from sleep paralysis you know how terrifying it can be. I was plagued by it when I was younger so I do know. Burns uses his own experience with sleep paralysis as a starting point to craft what becomes a creepy tale that packs a number of surprises along the way.
The script neatly uses Sarah’s seemingly chance encounters with Riff/Jeremy (Landon Liboiron, Hemlock Grove, Frontier) to lead us deeper into the story. His enigmatic nature gives the film a good bit of its edge. His motives are never entirely clear, is he really trying to help her? Or is he putting her at further risk for his own benefit?
Unfortunately, Come True does try to go a surprise or two too far at the end. It’s not a deal-breaker, but the film would have been much better if it ended a couple of minutes sooner.
For a low budget film, Come True looks amazing. The equipment used to monitor Sarah and the other subject’s dreams gives an image that looks a lot like an old monochrome computer monitor crossed with an ultrasound. It made me think of the footage we see in Prince of Darkness for some reason. That’s one of several references to genre films, including a scientist with George Romero glasses.
And it isn’t just the image that looks like old tech, the actual equipment looks like it came from the 50s and 60s. Which makes sense when you consider it’s supposed to be first-generation gear and prototypes. A nice touch is some of it actually being repurposed older equipment.
The film also benefits from some atmospheric lighting that compliments Burns’ cinematography, (he also edited Come True). The nightmare scenes, with their almost neon looking corridors, have a claustrophobic feel. It’s no coincidence they resemble a later scene in a crowded club. The other scene where this really shines is a long walk across a misty field near the end of the film. It’s textbook eerie, in the style of the moors at night in an old Hammer film.
Backing all of this up is a great Carpenteresque synth which Burns contributes to both under his own name and as his musical alter ego Pilotpriest. It’s the frosting on an already tasty cake.
Come True has been picked up by IFC Midnight for US distribution sometime in early 2021. Raven Banner will release it in Canada, date to be announced.