Greetings again from the darkness. Anyone who has experienced recurring nightmares understands how they impact not just the time you are asleep, but all waking hours as well. Anthony Scott Burns is the writer-director-cinematographer and is working from a story by Daniel Weissenberger. The film is blend of science fiction and horror, and Burns excels in creating an atmosphere of dread upfront.
Burns kicks things off by immersing us in the dark, troubling dream of high school student Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone, “The Killing”). She wakes up not in her bed at home, but instead wrapped in a sleeping blanket on a local playground. Sarah prefers to sleep in a park or at a friend’s house, rather than at her own home for reasons we can infer. Desperate for sleep and rest, she answers an advertisement for a sleep study at the university.
Based on the cars, movie posters, and tech equipment, the film is set in the late 1980s or early 1990s. Even the synth music is of the era, courtesy of Electric Youth and Burns’ own Pilotpriest. The music mirrors the film in that it’s superb in the beginning, and less effective in the second half. The blue-gray color palette and icy cold weather perfectly complement the unorthodox sleep study, and those who are running it. Jeremy/Riff (Landon Liboiron, TRUTH OR DARE, 2018) is the creepiest while looking like a bearded Harry Potter, though it takes a while to unravel his story. Also present is Dr. Meyer (Christopher Heatherington), who does little more than quietly observe. Allowing this character to play a bigger role could have benefited the story.
The mystique of dreams is what’s at play here, and the blinking monitors and concerned look of the scientists all serve their purpose. Unfortunately, it’s the dreams that let us down. The shadow man associated with sleep paralysis is on display here, but his glowing eyes amongst the abundance of gray lacked the eerie imagery need to capture my imagination. In fact, I found the dream sequences to drag, even after the first one got my hopes up.
It’s highly likely that Burns is a fan of filmmaker David Cronenberg, and we do appreciate the homage to Stanley Kubrick and Rodney Ascher. However, to be truly effective, a sci-fi/horror film, especially one dabbling in pseudo-psychology, must have more than the right look. Lead actress Julia Sarah Stone brings a unique appearance to the role, and she’s the reason I stuck with it until the end. My gut feeling is this could have been a world class short film, and it seems probable that I missed a deeper message here. But neither of those was enough to overcome my feeling of boredom during the film’s second half.
COME TRUE will open in select theaters, digital platforms, and cable VOD on March 12, 2021 courtesy of IFC Midnight