REVIEW: ‘Come True’ (2021) Will Certainly Polarise Viewers

Rating: 3 out of 5.

“Will excite some but infuriate others”

Come True feels like a singular vision – thanks to Anthony Scott Burns taking on the roles of director, writer, cinematographer, editor and composer – but that vision will certainly divide audiences on when watching this slow-burn horror. What starts as a straight-forward but intriguing look at a troubled young woman with mysterious dreams unfolds into something far bigger and experimental that will excite some but infuriate others.

The opening follows Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone), an eighteen-year-old who can’t sleep at night and is clearly dealing with some issues in her life. We first find her sleeping on a slide in the local playground, actively avoiding her mother and her home as much as possible and struggling to stay awake in school. To top that all off, she has reoccurring dreams that look like she’s stepped into a H.R. Giger fever dream. After spotting an ad for a research project looking for volunteers struggling to sleep, Sarah decides to go and, naturally, things aren’t all as they seem.

Sarah doesn’t reveal her inner thoughts or emotions to the other characters and the film doesn’t let us in on why either. Come True isn’t interested in traditional narrative structures and character arcs, and instead places an emphasis on mood and atmosphere – in which it excels in. Each scene revels in its slow-pacing and focuses on the faces of the cast, but the film really shines in the dream sequences. Unnerving but intriguing, the camera constantly pushes through dark monochrome landscapes filled with otherworldly monoliths and shadowy figures. We dive deeper and deeper into the psyche of the individual, picking up fragments of their past through objects scattered in the background and confronting the inescapable dread of a darkened figure at the end of the path.

A mature man with large, thick-rimmed glasses gazes upon a CRT monitor that is out of the frame but reflected in the glasses. The CRT displays lines of text we can't read. The room is too dark to see the background but the man is slightly lit by blue, purple hues.
Image courtesy of Lightbulb Film Distribution

It is at the film’s midpoint where opinions from audiences will start to differ. After building a somewhat grounded world and story, Burn’s ambitions rapidly grow scene after scene until the very last frame. Come True becomes so much bigger than Sarah, and it feels like the film abandons her and her arc to explore the wider implications of dreams and what dreaming really is. With the amount of twist and turns in the second half, each scene feels like its own little vignette within the whole feature, and some of the later scenes were frustrating instead of inspiring. Audiences who favour surreal, experimental film will appreciate Burn’s vision and ambition, but those who prefer a more traditional narrative promised in the first act will be sorely disappointed.

Thankfully there are still elements that can be appreciated by all throughout the rest of the film. The soundtrack from Electric Youth and Burns (under the moniker Pilotpriest) is comprised of beautifully haunting synths, and the scares are extremely effective. You won’t be finding any jump scares here, instead each scene is dripping in dread that is either pulled from the faces of the cast or from terrifying spectres that lurk in the background of the frame.

Come True is an intriguing exploration of dreams and what they truly mean to us, that oozes with atmosphere and style. It does feel, however, that Burns is more interested in the more surreal explorations seen in the latter half of the film than the character study introduced in the first half. It’s clear from his multiple roles that Burns has a great eyes and ears for an ethereal experience. It’d be interesting to see his talents in collaboration with a writer with a stronger screenplay.

Dir: Anthony Scott Burns

Wri: Anthony Scott Burns

Prod: Nicholas Bechard, Andrea Hatzinikolas, Steven Hoban, Vincenzo Natali, Mark Smith, Christopher Wallace

Cast: Julia Sarah Stone, Landon Liboiran, Christopher Heatherington

Available: In Cinemas 12th March and Digital Download from 15th March

Header image courtesy of Lightbulb Film Distribution