Saturday 13 March 2021

Dreamweaver: "Come True"

The word missing from Come True's title is "dream", and once you realise that, you have the key to writer-director-editor-DoP-VFX supervisor-general busy bee Anthony Scott Burns' film, the best of its type since Mike Flanagan's Absentia. (Flanagan was subsequently tapped to provide fresh blood to franchises and Netflix's drama output; I suspect a one-man-band like Burns is destined to go the same way, so you may want to get in early.) Exec-produced by genre stylist Vincenzo Natali, who was operating in adjacent territory around the turn of the millennium, Burns' film is organised around notions of flight and fugue. Its protagonist, peroxide-blonde teen runaway Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone), signs up for a sleep research program in a brutalist fortress, chiefly to have somewhere to go at night. Yet from the opening dream sequence, it's clear where she and the film are headed: towards a confrontation with the monstrous figures lurking within her own consciousness, who may or may not correspond to individuals in her daily reality, including the beardy young scientist who takes a special interest in her (Landon Liboiron), the clinic's distant head Dr. Meyer (Christopher Heatherington, joining Robert Joy on that list of Canuck character actors who'd be well cast as David Cronenberg) and possibly even several people closer to home.

One surprise is that Burns appears less interested in his set-up's generic possibilities than he is in fostering an uncanny ambient mood. Some of that comes from the not-quite-Americanness of his (well-chosen) Canadian locations, a lot from the electronic score by the absurdly hip-sounding Electric Youth and Pilotpriest, channelling Tangerine Dream. Around the sad-eyed Stone's singular screen presence - light and airy on Sarah's good days, hellish jittery whenever she's deprived of kip - the movie does feel legitimately dreamy in itself, right down to its headscratcher of an ending. (It's not a film you switch off; you wake up from it, startled.) Much of the second act is devoted to prowling round inside Sarah's alternately dank and dusty headspace - a supple, nicely unsettling mix of analogue and CG elements, with its Twiglet staircases and brittle arachnoid lifeforms. This is close to state-of-the-horror-art; yet Burns is equally capable of older-school, Val Lewton-like shadowplay, as in a scene set in an otherwise nondescript launderette, and he pulls off a real romantic flourish as those synths synchronise during a vision of love into a song reminiscent of Julee Cruise's David Lynch work. It would likely have needed a bit more oomph or a star name to secure itself a theatrical release in normal times, yet it's a rare VOD option that'll lodge in the memory, precisely because - even through that final movement, which pays off an early, throwaway reference to its heroine's childhood - it troubles to sustain an atmosphere, and doesn't just run screaming mindlessly through a plot.

Come True will be available to stream from Monday via Prime Video, ahead of its Blu-Ray release on April 5.

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