Reviewed By Ben Kenigsberg
On Come True (2020), the Canadian filmmaker Anthony Scott Burns is billed as the director, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor and lead member of the visual-effects team. Under the pseudonym Pilotpriest, he also shares credit for the synth-driven, ’80s-style score. He acquits himself well on all counts except maybe scripting (he wrote the story with Daniel Weissenberger). Like Our House (2018), Burns’s underseen feature debut, Come True is superior throwback horror marred mainly by familiarity and, in this case, an ending that feels like a tease.
Still, it’s hard to complain until then. The protagonist is Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone), an 18-year-old we first meet as she awakes in the morning on a playground slide. Owing to unspecified home troubles, she needs a regular place to spend the night. Her ingenious solution is to sign up for a sleep lab. The researchers can’t tell her what they’re studying, but it becomes clear that Sarah has an active dream state. Her nightmares, which we can squint at in dark, labyrinthine effects sequences, involve bald, shadowy figures. Viewers of Rodney Ascher’s documentary The Nightmare may sense where this is going.
Sarah becomes an object of obsession for one researcher (Landon Liboiron), whose repeated violations of good science and ethics warrant prompt dismissal, at least. But the characters are just the beginning of what’s creepy about Come True. Atmosphere is its primary virtue: Burns has an eye for medical spaces and tech that look dingy and out of date and for architecture that evokes anonymous, forgotten corners of academia.
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Review courtesy of The New York Times