The relationship between authors and their subjects has been very familiar territory for the horror genre. With classic horror films like The Shining and Misery, as well as contemporary horror favourites like 1408 and Sinister, True Fiction dabbles with the idea of controlled experiment in fear being the basis for murder, chaos and mayhem.
True Fiction is a physiological film, first and foremost. Blending the very blurred lines of reality, fantasy and toying with the perspectives of its two leads, the film becomes a feast for audience members to allow their imaginations to roam freely and vividly. A game of power and control, writer and director Braden Croft blends a familiar narrative of the cat-and-mouse game into a power struggle between accomplished author and his very polite, young and sweet test subject.
As the film opens, we are introduced to Avery Malone (Sara Garcia), an aspiring writer with some dark secrets about her past and her family, who is being interview for a position as an assistant to her favourite horror writer, Caleb Conrad (John Cassini). Seeing the opportunity as a unique experience to gain some writing tips and advice for her own, eventual work, she is given the opportunity to work with her idol, and accepts the position, almost blindly. Soon, she is picked up and driven to an isolated and secluded cottage, at an undisclosed location. Relinquishing her phone and her daily responsibilities, she is given the opportunity to explore the cottage, with the exception of a few locked doors. Shortly after, the highly mysterious and reclusive writer Caleb Conrad mysteriously appears in his study, where the two lay out the terms and agreements of their working relationship. Avery, without hesitation, signs over all consent to Caleb and quickly becomes his guinea pig, playing in his little, twisted game of analyzing fear and her deepest, darkest secrets. As time passes and the lines of reality and fantasy are blurred, Avery soon begins to question Caleb’s methods as well as the truths behind why she is really there in the first place.
True Fiction may not be the work of a seasoned horror master, but explores very menacing ideas of identity, at times, making Croft’s execution seem a little more confusing than it should. Croft’s ability to use dream-like scenarios and reality, at times, are his downfall, extrapolating the expectations and experience of the audience with sometimes uneven narrative flow. We often question Caleb’s intentions, as well as, who the true protagonist and antagonist really is. The film’s pace trots along quite well in the first two acts, but stalls in the third.
What’s really quite interesting about True Fiction is Croft’s, as well as his cast’s, ability to switch the power of each character’s so effortlessly and without much accountability. With each passing scene, the audience becomes quite confused, various times, as to who the villain and hero really are. The idea of submitting to your captor really gets put into question with every scene, and sometimes takes away from the overall threat that Croft sets up so patiently in the beginning.
One of True Fiction’s greatest achievements, is its commitment to the craft. While Canadian horror films aren’t quite applauded as much as American horror films, with the exception, of course, of a good ol’ Cronenberg film, the genre of horror in Canada is one that has been deemed, unfulfilled. I mean, sure, we have film like Ginger Snaps and Splice as well as a whole slew of co-produced American/Canadian horror films, but the genre is one that has yet to breakthrough and gain the respect from audiences and critics as much as American and Japanese horror films have.
Unfortunately, True Fiction does not have the muscle to become that film that really breaks out for Canadian horror. As its character Caleb Conrad states often to Avery, her character as well as the film itself, has an uncanny ability do what its told, and follow in the footsteps of so many before them. While True Fiction may be applauded for its ability to conjure up imagination, inspire interpretation and give audiences some bloody good fun, the shocks and chills are too short lived, the acting is a bit too Canadian-campy and the story does not stand on its own two feet long enough to question whether what we are seeing is truth, reality, or merely, unpolished storytelling.
Night Film Reviews: 5 Out of 10 Stars.
What did you think of True Fiction? Excellent Canadian breakthrough horror, or subpar Canadian horror camp? What did you think of the performances? Do you always do what your told? Leave your truths or fictions about the film, below!