REVIEW: ‘Come True’ is Disturbingly Great

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Come True

My husband has sleep paralysis. We’ve been together to nearly seven years now and I still don’t know how to respond when he wakes up with a muffled scream unable to move his body. I’ve had him explain the experience to me, the black figures with no details that appear, and the fear of not being able to move. That in and of itself is a horror story, so when I heard about Come True, a film from IFC Midnight that used sleep paralysis to tell its story, I knew I had to watch it.

If you’re unfamiliar with sleep paralysis, it’s a state during waking up or falling asleep that certain people experience. While in this state, a person is aware but unable to move or speak. During an episode, a person can hallucinate (hear, feel, or see things that are not there), which often results in fear. Imagine, if you will, being stuck inside yourself and unable to call for help, unable to wake up, and unable to have the autonomy to protect yourself. That’s sleep paralysis.

Come True is a science fiction-horror film from writer, director, and cinematographer Anthony Scott Burns. It stars Julia Sarah Stone as Sarah, a high school who has run away from home. At her lowest point, Sarah is plagued by recurring and unrelenting nightmares. Trying to cope, she stumbles across a university study that offers the promise of both a safe place to sleep and money. The bonus is that it also brings her an unexpected friend and confidant in the overseeing scientist Jeremy (Landon Liboiron). But there’s something curious about the study that seems to make Sarah’s disturbing dreams even worse. As the darkness begins to close in, it’s soon clear that Sarah has unknowingly become the conduit to a horrifying discovery for the research team.

When it comes to adapting the concept of sleep paralysis, Come True thrives. The opening of the film is slow, dark, and features an image of a menacing gray man. With a synthwave electric score by Electric Youth and Pilotpriest (the filmmaker’s composing moniker), the unsettling specter comes into frame with as much malice as you can imagine. If you’re unfamiliar with sleep paralysis, there is a constant that those who live with experience: a dark figure. Lacking in features, the specter can take different forms but they’re always dark, shadow people, if you will.

For the narrative’s sake, the shadow figure is what grounds both Sarah and the viewer, letting us know what is a waking dream and what is safe. This is effectively used to tell Sarah’s story and build suspense. But more importantly, the loop that Sarah finds herself in drives the horror of the film. While the science fiction elements of the film like screens that peer into the minds of the study participants and the tech to let the researchers see, it’s the creepy horror that makes this immersive film hit hard.

At the end of the film, I told my husband about how Sarah struggles to figure out if she is awake or asleep, unaware of the danger she’s in. He responded, “yeah, it’s like that.” He went on to explain the way he feels like he’s awake and then, out of nowhere, a shadow will appear and send him into a cycle of panic where he tries to wake himself up. This fear is captured in Sarah’s reactions—most notably as we enter the film’s third act. Finally thinking she’s okay, she allows herself to get closer to Jeremy, but in the middle of a moment that should be calming and intimate, a shadow lingers, inching closer to the camera.

The use of the shadow figure is intense, and the way the score transitions as he appears strikes the viewer like it does Sarah. It shatters normalcy and safety, cranking up the intensity. Overall, there isn’t much to the shadow figure’s design. He’s covered in gray paint, muscular, and just intimidating. It all works. The simplicity of design, the blue color palette, and of course, Sarah.

Come True isn’t a horror film that shocks you, so much as it aims to unnerve you. It sits down next to you and slowly creeps into your space until it’s suffocating. That’s why it works.

Come True is available in select theaters and VoD now.

Come True
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    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Come True isn’t a horror film that shocks you, so much as it aims to unnerve you. It sits down next to you and slowly creeps into your space until it’s suffocating. That’s why it works.