Jaclyn Bartlett says Come True’s eye-catching cinematography and thought-provoking plot provide a unique take on a somewhat overused horror trope.
Full of stunning visuals and provocative story-telling, psychological horror film, Come True will stick with you long after it concludes. Written and directed by Anthony Scott Burns, it provides a unique take on a somewhat tired horror trope. Countless horror films explore the concept of dreams, most notably, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). For most of us, nightmares are the closest we will get to true horror in our day-to-day lives. Although the “death dream” isn’t anything new or profound, Come True stands out in its exploration, delivering an eye-catching and thought-provoking experience through its unique take on the well-worn subject matter.
Come True follows teenage runaway Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone), who signs up for a sleep study that allows researchers to view participants’ dreams. Sarah spirals into paranoia and panic as her dreams begin taking control of her life. The audience joins Sarah on her journey of self-discovery as she experiences vivid nightmares, sleep paralysis, and sleepwalking. All the while discovering the inner workings of her mind and who she is as a person.
While many films about dreams scare audiences through supernatural or unrealistic elements, Come True explores the scientific side of dreams and sleep paralysis, examining their purpose and meaning. The concept of sleep paralysis is scary because it can happen to anyone. While A Nightmare on Elm Street’s villain, Freddy Kruger, is safely contained within the world of fiction, the possibility that we will be forced to face our demons in a state of sleep paralysis is tangible. By depicting numerous instances of sleep paralysis, the film emphasizes the promise of its title, that nightmares can “come true.” It shows the horror of nightmarish figures invading the real world while the helpless victim remains frozen, locked in sleep, unable to protect themselves.
A distinctive element of Come True, adding to its overall eerie tone, is the cinematography, which Burns also helms. The visuals throughout are stunning, with scenes bathed in neons, luminescent green, and blue tints, adding to the immersion of living in a dream or a warped reality—an idea that becomes important later. However, the dream sequences are what stand out. Sarah’s visions while asleep appear in an ominous black and white that perfectly captures a surreal sense of foreboding that nightmares bring. They depict staircases that descend forever, rooms wholly submerged in water, contorted humanoid figures, and shadow people with sinister glowing eyes. These disturbing images strike viewers with fear and unease, but they are so well-done it is hard to look away.
The film is thought-provoking, leaving audiences to wonder what the dreams and sleep paralysis represent, but the shocking ending allows us to view it from an entirely new perspective. I believe the best horror films are the stories that stick with you even after the credits roll and leave you with more questions than answers. After my viewing, I spent the rest of the day thinking back on everything that happened in the story, trying to make sense of what I’d witnessed.
Burns wears many creative hats to bring Come True to life, including scoring the film. The music gives it an almost whimsical air—adding to its overall ethereal vibe. Various sounds always perfectly marry the film’s tone to emphasize the characters’ emotions. It stands out amongst similar narratives in horror cinema, examining the meaning and purpose of dreams rather than relying on supernatural elements to scare audiences. Its vivid imagery and thought-provoking final act make it a memorable experience worth additional conversation.
Come True is now streaming on Hulu.