By MICHAEL GINGOLD
In COME TRUE, which IFC Midnight releases today to select theaters and VOD after acclaimed festival play, teenage Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) enters an unorthodox sleep study in an attempt to stave off recurring nightmares. One of the head scientists who becomes a key figure in the story is Jeremy, a.k.a. Riff, played by Landon Liboiron, who chats below with RUE MORGUE about his role–and his own similar experiences.
As COME TRUE, scripted and directed by Anthony Scott Burns, goes on and Sarah’s sleep becomes even more tortured, she forges a bond with Jeremy, though some of his actions become dubious as well. This hypnotic, surreal and gripping chiller (which we review here) is the latest of a number of genre credits for Liboiron, who also co-starred in the Blumhouse production TRUTH OR DARE, the Eli Roth-produced series HEMLOCK GROVE, the airborne fright film AIRBORNE–and 2011’s direct-to-video THE HOWLING: REBORN, which he also shared a few words about.
COME TRUE has an abstract storytelling style. How was that communicated in the script, and was it easy to envision just what Burns’ vision was?
Yeah, and I think it may have been one of the first times I read a script and could very much visualize the world. Not necessarily the pacing or all the things Anthony did in the edit; it was more like the aesthetic of the old technology Anthony loves to use. I saw all of that when I read it. It was never explained or written on the page, like, “Now they’re operating vintage computers”; you just felt the neon in it, and all the little aesthetic pieces that Anthony loves so much. It was probably the first time I ever read a script and felt it that much.
Have you ever had experiences with recurring nightmares or sleep paralysis, or anything similar to what happens in the movie?
I actually do get sleep paralysis, though not to the extent that Sarah does. I’ve never experienced the shadow men or the old hag or the cat on the chest or anything like that, but I have had times when my eyes open before my body wakes up. Sometimes I hear a radio on behind me, an old radio, and it’s broadcasting horrible things [laughs].
So how do you feel about the way the film presents that phenomenon?
I think it’s done in an incredibly clever way. I love Anthony’s use of Jungian psychology, and also the dreams he put together within the film. There were vague descriptions within the script of what they would be, but they far exceeded what I imagined them to be from reading them.
How was it filming COME TRUE?
It was one of the more unique shooting experiences I’ve had. It was very intimate and self-contained and controlled. It was really just a five-person crew. Anthony did everything; he directed, he operated the camera. We did have a sound guy, and another guy who did everything else that Anthony didn’t have time to do. They built all the sets and put everything together; it was just a very small team, and then obviously the actors. What Anthony was able to do was control the schedule, and he gave us a lot of time to work and perform. There were times when the day was dedicated to one scene, which is very rare on small-budget films or TV, which I’m more used to. I’m very grateful to him for giving us all that space to work. We always felt that Anthony was very in control of what was happening with the camera; he was a pleasure to work with.
How about acting with Julia Sarah Stone?
That was just working with a very dedicated, smart and talented artist. She very much cares for the characters she embodies, and she was very present and giving–and shy outside of it. But when we worked together, she was very giving. She’s a wonderful scene partner.
Jeremy starts off sympathetic, then does some questionable things as the film goes on, so how did you handle that transition?
It’s hard to talk about that, because I kind of had to find him sympathetic throughout the entire thing. I feel like what becomes sort of dark with Jeremy is how out of hand he allows things to become through his mistakes of handling his relationship with Sarah and his work, and the line that starts to blur between the two. I always tried to stay true to what was important to him, and to make sure that whatever he was doing, whether it was wrong or not, I was being sympathetic to him.
When you saw the finished film, was there anything that surprised you about the way it came together?
Yeah, absolutely. There were times when I wondered when Anthony had time to capture certain moments. I was like, “I don’t remember him setting that shot up!” He’s a wonderful filmmaker, and really knows how to create a world and work within it. There were parts of the dreams where I actually had chills go down my spine that I wasn’t expecting, because they weren’t written in the script, or through the way he paced them and kind of hypnotizes you with them. There are certain visuals in those, which I don’t really want to give away, that shocked me.
Again without giving anything away, what are your feelings about the ending, which has been divisive among people who have seen the film at festivals?
Well, upon finishing reading the script, my gut reaction was that it would be controversial [laughs]. It is a spinning top, of sorts. I hope the reaction when people watch the film is that it does spark conversation, and debates over interpretation.
Are you a horror fan yourself?
I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a major fan, but I enjoy horror films a lot. I like them more on the psychological side, where you’re watching the mind of a character unravel, rather than someone being subjected to horrible things. I really like movies where the horror comes from within.
Do you have any genre films coming up?
I did a film a year or two ago called HANDS THAT BIND that should be coming out soon, and you could call it a Southern Gothic type of film. It’s set in Southern Alberta, which is where I’m from, around the late ’70s/early ’80s. It stars Paul Sparks and Bruce Dern, which is pretty epic, and it’s about a ranch hand who is sort of losing his mind. It’s a form of psychological thriller where you watch him unravel as his life starts crumbling around him, and I’m excited to see how it comes out.
This spring marks the 40th anniversary of THE HOWLING, so if you don’t mind, I’d like to go back into your early filmography to talk about THE HOWLING: REBORN…
[Laughs] Oh, that one! It’s so long ago now that it’s fragmented in my memory. I remember we in the cast all got along very well and had a lot of fun working together. It was sort of a strange film, because we were making it in the wake of the TWILIGHT movies being so incredibly popular, and there was this weird approach to try to make some semblance of that within the HOWLING franchise. I feel like I learned a lot, because it was one of the first projects I was the lead in. I was a young actor learning the ropes. It was one of those projects where you found yourself shaking your head, like, “What are we doing?” [Laughs] This was my profession, and werewolves were bursting through walls and there was blood and gore and goo everywhere. It was just one of those strange experiences.
Were you a fan of the original HOWLING when you made it?
I had never seen it. I actually didn’t watch any of the HOWLINGs before making that movie, though I have seen the first one since, because they had nothing to do with the movie we were making. I wasn’t that much into monster flicks at the time; I’ve gotten into them since, doing shows like HEMLOCK GROVE. At the time, I was more focused on trying to tell my character’s story. There was a part of me that really wanted to make it as human a story as possible, with all these supernatural elements applied, so I stayed away from trying to emulate past werewolf movies.