It might be because Halloween is coming up, but there are a lot of horror films hitting the streams and theaters right now. Some of them I can’t make it through, but others turn out to be sleepers, really good movies that demonstrate a terrific verve and sense of style.
The indie horror film Come True is in the latter category and proves a good, creepy watch. It’s the kind of oppressive horror film that’s best viewed at home with the lights turned down and might well show up again in your dreams afterward.
Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) is a high school student with a bit of an attitude and a terrible secret: She suffers from intense insomnia due to her terrifying dreams. They’re so bad, they prevent her from ever getting restful sleep. She’s a tough cookie, however. She’s moved out of Mom’s house but still attends school and couch surfs when she can, sleeping outdoors in a pinch. She learns about a sleep study at a local university that pays $12/hr and signs up. What does she have to lose?
Except that this sleep study, run by intense graduate student Jeremy (Landon Liboiron), isn’t studying sleep patterns but exploring the tortured dreams of the study participants. What do the patients have in common, and what do their dreams have in common, if anything? How can the researchers help the participants stop being tormented by their dark psyches, as revealed during their sleep cycles?
Come True is an indie film, but it’s very well assembled, with a careful eye to cinematography, lighting, wardrobe colors, and music. The film includes extended nightmare sequences, which are definitely a bit unsettling, particularly as the story unfolds. It all looks really good, with many curious juxtapositions of modern tech – iPhones – and the oddly antiquated gear being utilized by the study team, including ancient oscilloscopes. The researchers might need a bit more oversight too, as their ostensible sponsor, Dr. Meyer (Christopher Heatherington), endlessly peering through thick Elliot Gould-esque glasses, seems entirely clueless about what’s really going on.
The music is terrific too, haunting and ethereal, with gradual crescendoes and counterpoints to the action happening on screen. The soundtrack is a combined effort of the Toronto-based duo Electric Youth and composer Anthony Scotto Burns under his pseudonym Pilotpriest.
Good horror films have a few critical elements that make things work: a creepy mood, a slow build-up of tension and peril, a dramatic reveal, and at least one character who is as baffled by what’s going on as we viewers are. In Come True the latter is ably delivered by young actor Julia Sara Stone, who is excellent as the tough-but-exhausted waif Sarah Dunne. The entire film really rests on her shoulders as the protagonist and Stone delivers a note-perfect performance.
There’s a compelling story here, well told, moody, creepy, and unsettling. But the very last scene, the big reveal? It’s a cheap narrative cop out and will leave you scratching your head and feeling at least a little bit disappointed. I can’t say much more without spoiling the film, so you’ve been warned.
Fortunately, the rest of Come True is really good, so I’m going to recommend it for horror fans even with its clumsy ending. You’ll just have to dream about alternative endings that could have proven more satisfying…
Dad At The Movies Note: This is not a film for younger audiences, possibly not even teenagers, who are often susceptible to insomnia and bad dreams. The creep factor is high in this film, you can definitely see the influence of Cronenberg and Roeg on the production team.