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Come True [Video Review]

The Science of Sleep: Burns Roars into Your REM Cycle with Broody Thriller

Anthony Scott Burns Come True Review“To sleep, perchance to scream” might be a takeaway impression from Come True, the sophomore film from Canadian director Anthony Scott Burns, a moody little somnambulistic thriller which will generate a bevy of comparisons (or tantalizing synchronicities) across a variety of conceptual sci-fi stories.

Long, drawn out sequences segue into increasingly menacing territory not unlike the experience and oft-illogical processes of a nightmare with a stellar combination of visuals and audio cues inviting the audience into a tense lull. A compelling performance from lead Julia Sarah Stone as a traumatized runaway turned sleep study participant assists in the necessary emotional investment to keep the film on edge during precarious drifts.

Sarah (Stone) has hit a rough patch in her senior year of high school. She’s run away from home, sleeping in the park at night or at her friend’s home whenever she’s permitted. Not surprisingly, she suffers from repeated nightmares, causing her to fall asleep in class. Chancing upon an ad for a paid sleep study at the local university, she enrolls. The nightmares continue to plague her, and something about the study seems off when they start showing her photographs of the images from her dreams. Other boundary issues are crossed, such as a burgeoning flirtation with one of the overseers, Jeremy aka “Riff” (Landon Liboiron), and as the sexual tension heats up, figures from Sarah’s nightmares begin to make themselves known.

Divided into chapters, which can be revisited but don’t necessarily hold all the answers for a significant reveal in the final moments (although, one could argue it’s merely another tangent of the film’s mechanisms), we learn little about Sarah’s troubled past which has led her to be a vagabond. Perhaps we’re left to be more curious about the recurring nightmares accompanying her current instability, where a shadowy creature lurks in subterranean depths behind doors and objects inspired by either H.R. Giger or those gateways to hell from Lucio Fulci. Burns plays with timelines as well (which supports an impactful final scene). There’s modern technology, but the production design is 1980s nostalgic nightscape. Filmed in Alberta, Burns conjures a variety of his potential darlings, from Philip K. Dick, to John Carpenter, and impressively served as his own cinematographer, editor and screenwriter (with story credit to Daniel Weissenberger).

A character unto itself is a fantastic score from Electric Youth (responsible for the theme which would define the melancholic mood of Refn’s Drive) and Pilotpriest, and through it Come True feels like the torchbearer for classic genre films as a Vangelis inspired throwback. Stone is quite believable as the oft-bedraggled Sarah, and the lack of information we have about her past allows her journey to maintain some enigmatic qualities. It’s no surprise to learn the sleep study isn’t exactly gathering data about what one would assume, printing out grainy snapshots from the nightmares of the participants to jolt their subconscious into three-dimensional reality. But how insidious are they, these scientists? Is it an initiation a la Society (1989)? Or is all this merely a reflection of the hypothesis of our culturally and intergenerationally inherited universal fears suggesting parallel worlds we can all sense but not quite characterize?

Although some of the supporting players sometimes distract from the established ambience, Come True is an effective and often immersive sensory genre experience, the narrative counter to a Rodney Ascher and the progeny of all those 1980s masters who set the gold standard for genre.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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