Film Review: Anthony Scott Burns Writes and Directs Nightmarish Horror ‘Come True’

Filmmaker Anthony Scott Burns who has previously served as visual effects artist on The Last Exorcism II and segment director on anthology horror Holidays, writes and directs Come True. This sci-fi horror delves into the mysticism of dreams and the horrors of nightmares, doing so with an impressive lo-fi visual intrigue and tense, eerie atmosphere.

Come True follows Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone), a teenage runaway plagued by unsettling dreams. She signs up to a mysterious sleep study as a means of finding somewhere safe to reside, however this begins a nightmarish descent into her world of dreams and the strange beings that inhabit them.

Burns does an impressive job at crafting a real sense of intrigue throughout Come True as seen from its lack of chronological identity from clunking machinery, darkened claustrophobic hospital interiors, to strangely dated clothing. Burns’ film could be unfolding in the late seventies or a more contemporary period and thanks to this echoes of sci-fi/horror genres classics can be felt such as Cronenberg classics’ Scanners and Videodrome.

Burns’ directorial style makes the most of slow panning movements, creative use of light and shadow (particularly in the dream sequences) seen in neon glows from computer screens and darkened figures lurking, and a muted aesthetic palette. Loading the dream sequences with strange labyrinthine visuals and curious ambient sounds, with touches of H.R. Giger to the creature designs and monstrous content of Sarah’s dreams, help ensure Come True has a bold aesthetic identity. This inviting yet uncomfortable style lures us into this chilling dream world meaning the unpredictability of what may occur within (and later outwith) Sarah’s dreams continually shocks and unsettles.

Come True makes sparing use of dialogue, perhaps because the visual style of the film speaks volumes – nonetheless Julia Sarah Stone shines with an impressive, vulnerable central performance. Her sense of exhaustion as a result of her traumatising dreams and challenging living situation paired with facing the physical manifestations from her dreams, allows her numerous moments to shine with an intense performance, which she does wholeheartedly. As the narrative progresses, Burns takes the project down some interesting routes with echoes of It Follows creeping into the story as dreams begin to cross over into reality with some chilling consequences. Playing with ideas including creatures being seen on monitors yet not in reality allows for some cracking moments of impressive horror to unfold. Whilst a dramatic forest-set conclusion packs a punch, a last minute twist does not add a huge amount to the fold.

On a technical level, Come True’s insistence on scoring near every scene with music becomes quite overbearing with the quiet, silent tension of certain moments jeopardised by overbearing musical accompaniment.

Come True shines through its brooding, gothic aesthetics and darkened claustrophobic settings. Its narrative concept of the horrors of nightmares creeping into our reality allows numerous impressively executed moments of nastiness to creep under our skin whilst paying homage to classics of the sci-fi and horror genres.

Come True is available on demand in the UK from Friday.