‘Come True’ an eerie, original take on horror fueled by nightmares

Despite a disappointing ending, the creatively creepy film succeeds in delivering scares and intrigue.

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Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) wears cumbersome headgear while being monitored during a sleep study in “Come True.”

IFC Films

Such a brilliant, spine-tingling buildup — and such a thudding disappointment of an ending. Watching the creatively creepy and starkly haunting “Come True” is like going to see a great new band in concert and seeing them kill it for the first 90 minutes, only to end the night dressed in wacky costumes and playing bagpipes. Where did THAT come from???

‘Come True’

Untitled

IFC Films presents a film directed by Anthony Scott Burns and written by Burns and Daniel Weissenberger. No MPAA rating. Running time: 106 minutes. Available Friday on demand.

Still, despite the out-of-left-field ending (which we will not reveal, in part because you might think I’m playing an early April Fool’s joke on you), I’m recommending director/co-writer/cinematographer Anthony Scott Burns’ night-terror horror story, which plays like an homage to certain films of David Cronenberg and John Carpenter as well as the “Nightmare on Elm Street” series while delivering its own, original vibe. (“Come True” also reminded me a little of “Dreaming Grand Avenue,” which had some similar themes and was released last year and you owe it to yourself to check it out.)

Filmed in shadowy, claustrophobic tones, “Come True” spends much of its time inside the dreams of Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone in a stunningly good, frills-free performance), a high school student and runaway from an abusive household who has been alternately spending nights at the home of her best friend Zoe (Tedra Rodgers) or sleeping in a local playground. Not that Sarah gets much sleep. She’s constantly haunted by hyper-real nightmares in which she’s trapped in some kind of in-between world where she is pursued by a hulking, vaguely human-looking creature with eyes that glow like headlights on a foggy night.

Sarah is at a local coffee shop — she drinks a LOT of coffee during the day to keep awake — when she sees a notice soliciting subjects for an experimental new sleep study. This is perfect for Sarah. She’ll have a place to stay every night, she’ll get paid to sleep, and maybe this study will help her figure out the meaning of her dreams. What could possibly go wrong?

There’s something disturbing about the austere setting, not to mention the suspicious behavior of the enigmatic Dr. Meyer (Christopher Heatherington), who is heading the study with the help of a team of graduate students, including the initially likable Jeremy (Landon Liboiron), who takes more than a scientific interest in Sarah. Even weirder, Sarah and the other subjects must wear bizarre, cumbersome headgear every night, and when Sarah asks, “What are you studying?,” the reply comes: “I can’t tell you that.”

Well, THAT seems problematic.

Turns out Dr. Meyer and his team have discovered a way to literally see your dreams on a bank of monitors that look like they were lifted from the set of a 1950s horror film — meaning they can visually eavesdrop on Sarah’s nightmares, which are becoming increasingly worse, almost as if those humanoids (they seem to be multiplying) with the glowing eyes are ready to burst free from the land of dreams and create chaos in the real world. Things go from weird to bat-bleep crazy and we’re nearly lifted out of our seats by a couple of perfectly executed jump-scares, and “Come True” does an unsettling slow build to its climactic moments and we’re all-in as all hell breaks loose.

And just as we’re catching our breath and eager for some answers, we get that confounding, WTF of an ending, which severely undercuts everything that has transpired to that moment and has us hoping there’s an alternate ending or three on the cutting-room floor. Not that even a mulligan would erase the letdown of this original ending.

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