With stellar performances and strong writing, “True Fiction” is a mind-bending film about the nature of reality — a modern horror classic in the making.
Truth is defined as that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality. While Fiction is an invention or fabrication as opposed to fact. At a surface level, these words or concepts are complete and total opposites. But when you factor in the enigma that is the human condition, these words can become more alike than we would like to admit.
Truth is in accordance with reality. But what if our perception of reality is based on a fabrication? Does a personal truth based on lies make one’s own reality a work of fiction? This is the dichotomy of the subjective human experience — a fine line between reality and fabrication, of truth and fiction — and a concept explored in the 2019 psychological thriller True Fiction.
Written and directed by up-and-comer Braden Croft, True Fiction is a modern literary horror masterpiece which should find itself paired well with classics such as Misery or In the Mouth of Madness.
The film follows the story of shy, lonely librarian and aspiring writer Avery Malone (Sara Garcia), as she takes a once in a lifetime job offer to be an assistant for her hero Caleb Conrad (John Cassini). Shortly after a most uncomfortable of interview processes, she is taken to a remote cabin in Maine during the heart of winter to begin her work. The setting of the film is certainly an homage to Stephen King and many of his works.
Once there, she meets the enigmatic and reclusive Caleb. He informs her that this is no ordinary assistant job. Instead, she will be assisting in the writing process by participating in a game, a controlled experiment in fear. Caleb explains, “Fear is to horror writers what sugar is to candy. It’s an essential ingredient.” To this, Avery responds, “Well, I’m your Willy Wonka.”
What follows is an insanity which certainly satisfies the sweet tooth of even the most fickle of horror connoisseurs.
The game begins with Caleb subjecting Avery to a myriad of psychological tests from Rorschach and personality quizzes. She’s then hooked up to a lie detector and forced to answer personal questions. And she’s strapped to a chair and made to stare at a screen with disturbing images of explosions and maggots — much like the mind control scene from A Clockwork Orange. Caleb even goes so far as to strap Avery to a table, confining her in a sensory deprivation suit of some sort.
As the days go on and the tests become more bizarre and intrusive, Avery begins to question what is true and what is reality. Is everything she is experiencing part of the elaborate game? Is she slowly losing her mind? Or is something more sinister going on?
The film does a great job of keeping you guessing for the duration. What happens next is never predictable.
True Fiction is a mind-warping, reality-bending descent into madness.
What is real and what is not? What is truth and what is fiction? It truly is in the eye of the beholder. As the movie progresses and morphs, definitions of hero and villain shift wildly, depending on the perspective from which the story is told.
At times, the film a slow burn thriller reminiscent of HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, with nothing but the creaking of floor boards to set a terrifying atmosphere. At other times, it’s a gory, violent blood bath with non-stop action, more akin to HIGH TENSION. Overall, it’s an outstanding flick which makes the best of a low budget. Thanks to fantastic writing, the film explores an interesting premise without any plot holes that leave you scratching your head.
Powerful performances from Garcia and Cassini help bring the great writing to life. They are able to really convey a sense of true fear, dread and all out maniacal insanity.
In the world of fictional horror writers, Caleb Conrad ranks right up there is Sutter Cane. And True Fiction ranks right up there as one of the best horror films of 2019 so far.