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Come True takes a nightmarish look at where dreams come from
By Robert Stahl
Come True is a new psychological thriller that deals with dreams, one of my favorite topics. From Shakespeare to Shakira, dreams have long fascinated we mere mortals. Consider the 2010 film Inception, a blockbuster smash about criminals who use the dreamworld as a tool to pull off incredible heists. Or Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, a graphic novel turned Audible drama about a mysterious entity who presides over a dreamlike realm beyond our wildest imaginations. Even the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise cashed in on our fascination with dreams — arguably for many more years than it should have. In Come True, director and writer Anthony Scott Burns (Our House) takes a fresh look at the elusive and seductive power of dreams and how we as humans need them to survive.
Part sci-fi adventure, part horror flick, Come True revolves around Sarah, played by Julia Sarah Stone, a troubled teenager with a mysterious past. A recent runaway, Sarah spends her nights at a nearby park — close enough to home that she can sneak in to shower while her mother is away at work. Sarah is exhausted. Her life would be better if she could only get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, a recurring nightmare keeps her from doing so. She spends much of her time at a coffee shop to stay awake. During one of her java-guzzling sessions, she spies an advertisement for a sleep study. Tired, frazzled and downcast, she gives it a go.
This is where the questions start to pile up for Sarah. There are a few other subjects in the study, but none of them can tell her much about what’s going on. When Sarah asks the researchers about their motives, she finds them elusive and tight-lipped. Sarah goes along with it anyway, so desperate is she to get a good night’s sleep. (Fellow insomniacs, can you relate?) Although she gets some relief at first, it isn’t long before the nightmares intensify. When Sarah strikes up a relationship with one of the assistants, he lets her in on the group’s terrible secret — everyone in the study group is having the same nightmare. Not only that, but the nightmare seems to be spilling over into reality. Worse, all of it somehow ties back to Sarah.
Director Anthony Scott Burns weaves the tale nicely as he strings us along the sequence of mysteries, revelations, and thrills. Burns relies on slow-moving scenes filled with suspense and tension, rather than outright gore, although there is some of that before all is said and done. For horror lovers, the movie is worth seeing alone just for Sarah’s nightmarish visions. When she dreams, the camera descends into a surreal hell that would give Hieronymus Bosch himself the heebie-jeebies. Mists eddy and swirl, giving us partially seen glimpses of deplorable acts of chaos and torture. Ragged body parts hang from hooks in stony dungeons. A tunnel mouth is protected by dozens of severed arms. And at the center of it all, a brooding figure with glowing white eyes lurks, waiting. Here again, Gaiman’s character from Sandman comes to mind. But where Gaiman’s Morpheus is cold and distant, he remains mostly a benevolent character. We can’t say the same about the nightmarish figure at the center of Come True. It’s enough to give you chills well after the movie is over.
Despite its flaws, Come True is a thriller with something important to say, although sometimes this viewer wasn’t quite sure what that something might be. The film is mostly evenly paced, although it meanders at times, especially in its all-important final act. As a result, Come True doesn’t quite stick its landing. But overall, Come True is an original and interesting delve into the mysterious, and often puzzling, topic of dreams. For horror and sci-fi fans, Come True has a secret to startle you with. At the very least, it’s a movie that will keep you guessing until the final frame.
Come True was filmed in 2020 and released in March of 2021. You can stream it on Hulu or rent it on platforms such as Amazon Prime and iTunes.
Robert Stahl is a former bartender who left his bottle opener behind to follow his dreams as a writer. Now the Dallas-based freakazoid writes advertising copy by day and fiction in the evenings. He loves to connect with others about the craft of fiction. Click the link to find his blog as well as links to some of his stories: robertestahl.com.