(Editor’s Note: This is the second and final Fantasia International Film Festival piece from new Vehlinggo writer Rachel Reeves. This might also be the first film review on this site (as opposed to film music review). It looks at the interplay between the music of Anthony Scott Burns (AKA Pilotpriest) and Electric Youth on Burn’s new film, Come True. Longtime Vehlinggo readers will know those names well — and there’s a good chance you’ve read or heard about this film in interviews with them on this site and on The Vehlinggo Podcast. Pilotpriest and Electric Youth score the film and the latter provide some songs. You’ll be pleased with the reworks of Electric Youth classics “Modern Fears” and “Runaway.” There is also excellent new music. Needless to say, it’s a much-anticipated movie in Vehlinggoland. This isn’t the last piece of coverage of Come True on Vehlinggo. Stay tuned for more on the music.)
There’s a line in Philip K. Dick’s influential sci-fi novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (which was adapted in film as Blade Runner) that says, “Everything is true…Everything anybody has ever thought.” In context as well as concept, the idea posits that there is a state of perception where the lines between reality and illusion, truth and falsehood, blend into one universal narrative. Inherently riddled with implied possibilities and dark potential, the evergreen allure of the notion is fascinating — and it’s one that Anthony Scott Burns’ Come True seeks to explore.
At the heart of the film lies Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone). Upon our first introduction to her, we learn that Sarah is a young, intelligent high school student with troubles that far outweigh her years. After running away from home, she struggles to not only find a place to sleep each night — but struggles to sleep at all. Haunted by vivid and terrifying nightmares, sleep becomes an elusive and frightening frontier. Seeking not only refuge but support and funds as well, Sarah finds answers for all three in a university sleep study recruiting new participants.
As the study proceeds night after night, Sarah develops new friendships while simultaneously learning more and more about the nightmares that plague her and her fellow participants. But there’s something about the nature of observation that doesn’t quite agree with her dreams in particular. The more both Sarah and the scientists learn about her inner demons, the more they realize that not everything — or everyone — is quite what they seem.
Directed, shot, and written by Burns (Our House) and executive-produced by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice), Come True is a film fueled by passion and the creative circle that surrounds it. Similar to previous works from the acclaimed Canadian filmmaker, while there may be recognizable fragments of familiarity within the film’s framework, its true strength lies with its heartfelt characters and well-crafted execution. Anchored by convincing and engaging performances from Stone (Honey Bee) and Landon Liboiron (Truth or Dare), the film further envelops the audience through its world-building, clever use of sound, and its truly masterful score.
Considering the filmmaker’s past and history with music creation as Pilotpriest, it makes sense that a large portion of the film’s emotional power and resonance comes through the score. It makes even more sense when one realizes that the score comes via collaboration between Pilotpriest and friends, the iconic Canadian synth-pop outfit Electric Youth. From start to finish, the score consistently allows the audience to emotionally track the characters while simultaneously supporting and developing the mysterious, evolving world that surrounds them.
As the title card appears and fades into the film, an aura inducing swirl of static, electronic drones, and haunting ethereal vocalizations pan from left to right, setting the emotional tone for our cinematic voyage. Catching an early glimpse at the dark realm within Sarah’s head, sound design and score amalgamate into one encompassing experience. Low, resonating pulses alternate with high, almost metallic clicks creating an inverted, disorienting sense of space and alignment. The images are eerie, foreboding, and terrifying in their stillness. And they linger long after Sarah breaks with her dream, returning to her reality.
Exhausted both mentally and physically, we watch as Sarah navigates her world through experiences both mundane and challenging. Building from below, slow and steady, the brilliance of the film’s sonic approach begins to focus and reveal itself. The restrained and deliberate resonating mix of electronic tones ebbs and flows with purpose and intent. Tapping into subconscious associations with major keys, the emotional takeaway is one that’s both innocent and subtle. Without any extensive dialogue or inciting events, the film utilizes carefully orchestrated shots and music to draw a connecting line from Sarah to the audience.
Even in these early establishing scenes of the film, the relationship between score, character, and visuals is strongly and firmly established. The more information gets revealed about Sarah, her world and her dark, mysterious dreamscape, the more entwined the three elements become in one another. Lights pulse and swell in time with melodic rhythm. Diegetic sounds from visual elements dip in and out of the ongoing narrative. Melodic progressions lead neither up nor down, playing with the plot and keeping its secrets held close. And despite all three elements standing more than capable on their own, together their combined potency equates to a much stronger cinematic experience.
With their past collaborating on various film- and music-related projects — what was to be Breathing and Memory Emotion, for example — it makes perfect sense that a score from Burns and Electric Youth would result in such an expertly coordinated affair. Burns and Electric Youth have an uncanny ability to tap into that which endears us to times long past without ever feeling forced or too specific. Embracing the idea of connection and sentimentality, the two uniquely celebrate the best aspects to these complicated emotions in a way that defies time or specific categorization. Although indicative of the two unique entities on their own, it is an encompassing idea that Come True embraces, utilizes, and intimately weaves throughout its visual and emotional narrative.
There’s a special kind of honesty and sincerity that permeates each and every frame of Come True and it’s one that speaks towards Burns’ consciously calculated approach to filmmaking. Every shot has purpose. Every lighting choice, crafted. Every visual shift, digitally created element, costume choice, character interchange, and sonic undercurrent has been lovingly handled and deliberated over. And while the passion that motivates is clear, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a perfect film.
Not without flaws, Come True strays from the path a bit in the final act by combining too many ideas unnecessarily. But even there, in that final homestretch, these story-driven issues contain an innate sense of deliberation and purpose that naturally allow for a bit of leeway. Despite certain ideas not being explored perhaps as much as some would like (and others being explored too much), the film remains a unified and cohesive unit.
Clearly a director who appreciates a dependable circle of like-minded creatives, Burns’ dedication to craft and adamance in retaining creative control is an admirable and exciting one — especially for Electric Youth fans. After the infamous incident surrounding his previous film, which led to him and Electric Youth leaving the production (and the latter giving us the lost soundtrack, Breathing), Come True marks the first successful cinematic collaboration between the two. While the potential for score-related greatness has been circling the duo since Drive, Come True finally provides proof positive that Electric Youth are not just capable of carrying a film score, but dexterously skilled at it. With many directors utilizing trusted composers time and time again, fans of both can rest easy knowing this latest film is probably not their last together.
(Editor’s Note: The music from Come True will be released at some point, but details are to-be-announced. A VOD date for the film is also TBA. There might also be a screening in your town, if you’re reading this from a region that has its act together.)
Rachel Reeves is a vinyl junkie with an obsession for soundtracks and horror films. By day, she can be found at The Record Exchange in Boise, Idaho. By night, she’s a freelance writer with bylines at Nightmare on Film Street, Rue Morgue, and Film Cred. You can find her on Twitter, too.