Often we march out of movies with reactions ranging from ecstatic to visceral and the feelings stay with us as we pour thoughts onto social media and group chats. But Come True was one I had to sleep on.
Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) is struggling with staying awake. She misses having a comfortable place to lay her head and is desperate enough to submit to a months long sleep study just for the bed. But every time she dives into the world of slumber, Sarah has horrible nightmares. Her waking life is desperation to doze and her time asleep is mired by haunts. Joining the sleep study, Sarah becomes paranoid about her co-subjects and the scientists, ultimately throwing herself into the new technology being used to analyze sleep, one that can render dreams as computer generated images.
There’s more to the story, but also there’s much less. The ending threw some viewers from being inquisitive to wanting to chuck the film out the window but somehow the parts of this film are more valuable than the whole.
The film is moody in the best way. Writer/ director, Anthony Scott Burns, sets the tone, draped in blue and exploiting the Canadian streets and facades for angular tableaux. Though it’s about the potential of dreams passing through realms, it’s much less Nightmare on Elm Street than it is other early 90’s haunts. It’s a version of Flatliners that’s steeped in David Cronenberg.
The biggest loss throughout the movie is that the stakes never feel high. Sarah is struggling but it’s a bit unclear why so we’re unsure what her potential endgame is. It’s unclear what the sleep scientists are chasing or have discovered and how it affects their subjects is never explored. The nightmare demons are compelling as a Steven King story but it’s never clear if they can harm, so there’s no fear when they show up. The dreaded “movie ruining ending” sinks those stakes even lower, but it’s not so detrimental given the low hum of concern had thus far.
The shining star in the night sky is the construction of the dreams. It’s never a device to troll the audience, but a haunting insert into the goings on. The film often feels pointless, which I mean in a good way. The dreamscape is haunting and feels like slowly tracking through a long hallway, something experienced by Sarah in her aimless waking bike rides that seem to be heading somewhere that she never arrives.
Beyond the beautiful tableaus (I’m truly a sucker for the scene of the scientist sitting in front of flickering screens as it reminds me of a New 52 Joker shot) is the effective score. Post John Carpenter scores and scares and with the success of European terrors, there has been an onslaught of spooky synth in scary movies. Again, it’s something I’m a sucker for, but the Come True score blows the copycats out of the water. It’s new and different but still a synth wave you’ll feel in your jaw.
The film relies so much on tone and attempts to create uncertainty in timeline by showcasing the old style equipment on modern machinery with things like tube screens and dot matrix printers. This looks great but it also is completely undermined by the heavy reliance on modern cell phones. It could have taken a page from the book of It Follows and kept all of the technology vague but by going this way, it felt inconsistent, though it does explain it away and allow for suspension of disbelieve in favour of style.
The frustration of the ending isn’t because it is simply an unsatisfying twist, but because it calls into question the rest of the film and the emotional weight poured into everything. That which is uncertain feels to be building up to something larger, or leaning to a deeper meaning so throwing that out in favour of shock value is a bummer. The style is lost amongst the substance because the substance keeps trying to tell us it’s there when it isn’t.
Ultimately, after chewing on this film overnight, my immediate visceral reaction turned to quiet respect. It’s difficult to evaluate a film that I simultaneously loved watching but hated everything about it. Narratively, it’s a kick in the pants but the haunting tone created by the sights and sounds is feat enough to let it all slide.