TRUE FICTION is a movie directed and written by Braden Croft, starring Sara Garcia and John Cassini. It is the type of film that I would put in the mind game sub-genre. There’s always someone in these types of films who is pulling an elaborate mind game of mental and physical torture on an unsuspecting victim for some not very well articulated psychological reason(s). We are supposed to be thrilled by their masterful manipulations. Insert my eye roll here. It is usually proposed as a game or an experiment, but usually has something to do with revenge or some type of material gain.
While watching this movie, I kept flashing back to a number of other films: Saw, Hard Candy, and the Stephen King book that focuses on a fan terrorizing a writer, Misery. There’s even a bit of “Hannibal” the television series in there with the specific piece of classical music that plays over the action. While the movie is competently executed, it lacks the true terror, suspense, and surprises of Misery or “Hannibal”. In fact, it is somewhat like the inverse of those properties. Instead of the fan terrorizing the author to force him to write a book about her favorite character, it is a writer with writer’s block who hires another writer and fan to “assist” him in writing his new book. How? By being taken hostage and submitting to Clockwork Orange style videos, isolation, gas-lighting, and physical menace.
The actress who plays the lead character Avery Malone (Sara Garcia) tries hard but can’t make me believe that she is really scared. She is a competent and professional craftsperson, but there is no real emotion in her performance. She knows how to fake terror, but does not feel it. Therefore at no time was I drawn into the story or able to empathize with her character and her plight, which to be honest, seemed a bit ridiculous as well. John Cassini plays Caleb Conrad, the author or actor playing the author, both conclusions are hinted at, but never resolved fully. He is very much like Sarah. Professional, but only good at going through the motions and the facial expressions of fear, but not feeling them.
This kind of horror movie only works if you believe in the situation. I didn’t. Truthfully, most horror movies only work that way. The actors have to believe in the story themselves to make it work, but this particular type of movie hinges on the emotional landscapes and psychological motivations of the characters. There really isn’t much else to these characters. And, if you can’t get sucked in by the characters, you have a bit of a hard road ahead of you.
The story is contrived as well. Avery is the classic horror movie orphan that has no family and seemingly won’t be missed. Oh, and she has buried trauma from her past. She is easily terrorized into a number of mini mental breakdowns and then, at one point, a miracle occurs that her character development at that point cannot support. This makes the movie head towards an unearned resolution. Caleb’s story and motivations go back and forth depending on the scene and the needs of the team to reach its ending, rather than an organic flow of a story towards a conclusion that makes some kind of sense.
In this, TRUE FICTION really reminds me of Hard Candy – disclaimer: I really didn’t like that movie – because suddenly the doe-like heroine becomes SUPERWOMAN! While I obviously do not have a problem with strong female characters as a feminist woman, I do have a problem with characters that are written as weaklings who suddenly change. Not because the story earns the change, but because someone really wants to have a movie that will make the audience stand up and cheer. There is a certain type of condescension for women that involves making them into the typical insulting characters, but there is the other kind of condescension that thinks that simply making a woman as brutal as a man makes her strong.
TRUE FICTION is sewn together from the pieces of a lot of other horror films and the surgery wasn’t very successful. I will admit it, emotionally, I am an easy mark for real, authentic feelings. However, this is a film of technically proficient actors, writers, and directing lacks that magic and that elusive and basic human feeling. It is a nice looking copy of a great painting that lacks the master artist’s hand. I can’t recommend it.