A film premiered on Friday, May 24th, at Fantaspoa Film Festival in Brazil that is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. That film is True Fiction. Written and directed by Braden Croft, True Fiction is the tale of an author who knows no bounds when it comes to curating the perfect novel. Really, there are no bounds when it comes to this psychological horror.
The story is set in motion when aspiring writer, Avery (Sara Garcia), is chosen to apprentice a reclusive, best selling author, Caleb Conrad (John Cassini). This isn’t just any author to Avery. Caleb is her favorite author, and she’s a true hardcore fan. Upon getting the apprenticeship, Avery believes that her dull, librarian life is about to become a lot more exciting. Little is she aware of as the moment she steps into the secluded mountain home of the famed author, excitement is just one of the many aspects of life that she will experience.
“…one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.”
Her role in this apprenticeship is simple. She must subject herself to what she is told a series a harmless psychological tests. These tests will help Caleb gather material for his next novel. What should have been an opportunity of a lifetime turns into a fight for her psychological state as Avery’s tests shove her further and further away from sanity, and into a dark night from which there may be no escape.
Croft has written and directed a swift tale of horror that puts you into Avery’s shoes from the very beginning. Shoes that we feel comfortable in as Sara Garcia brings a subtle charm and relativity to the character in a very short amount of time. As we follow her to the gorgeous log cabin that Caleb resides in – at least, for this novel – we begin to feel along with Avery that there’s something a little off. There’s no one around for the first few hours of her stay. Ominous doors are locked. But yanno, that’s all easy to overlook when you’re about to meet your favorite author.
Almost as soon as the tests begin, Avery’s realization that Caleb isn’t at all what she’s conjured of him in her head. Strange things begin to happen during these tests, and they happen at such a pace that the film never lags. We’re treated to miniature set piece after miniature set piece, and we’re just as confused as Avery is as to what is happening. This. Is. Not. A. Bad. Thing. In fact, it works so well within this film because we are still in those shoes that we settled in at the beginning, and we want the best for the lass wearing those shoes.
Once we hit the final act, that’s when the puzzle pieces begin to come together to form a whole new level of twists and surprises. They aren’t big, “Oh my heck!” surprises. Instead, they are small and incredibly satisfying. Each turn of the story begins with a subtle look or gesture from Avery or a eerily calm, yet totally insane suggestion from Caleb.
There’s a moment where Avery goes full-on badass but Garcia’s version of badass isn’t brass and loud. Instead, she gives Avery a creepy calm exterior just barely holding back a raging bull ready to charge. Garcia’s performance as Avery is so full of spark that you can’t help but be on her side 100% even when you’re unsure if you should be or not.
As for Caleb, you know that there isn’t something swell about him. Upon meeting him, he seems like a cool and legit guy. The farther we get into the film, the more we realize that he’s setting Avery up for something a bit more sinister. That’s exactly how Cassini portrayed Caleb. While he seems calm and collected – even during the nasty bits – there is always sinisteR about him that makes you sneer at the screen. Swarmy, even, as he tries to play the victim. I’m sneering at his character as I’m typing this.
Garcia’s Avery and Cassini’s Caleb have an explosive chemistry that carries the film. Much like we are in it until the end with Annie Wilkes and Paul Sheldon in Misery, we are in until the end with Avery and Caleb. True Fiction is in the vein of Misery, and I believe it pays homage to the classic. It actually flips the script on what Misery offered thus becoming a terrifying gem of its own.
“A terrifying gem that will also pull on the heartstrings…”
A terrifying gem that will also pull on the heartstrings of those who know what it’s like to want to be a writer, and of those who are writers. True Fiction gently touches on the anxieties that can hold back a writer who wants to put themselves out there, but can’t due to irrational fears that hold them back. Those fears are brought to the forefront of Avery’s struggle, and in accepting a new sort of fear thanks to Caleb’s tests, she is able to overcome so much more. As for the already established writer, those anxieties can lie within not being able to bring something new and fresh to the table that will be accepted as well as your other successes. Caleb represents that writer as we see him go to undeniably dangerous lengths to hopefully reach above what he’s already reached.
That’s what I enjoyed so much about True Fiction. It comes from the heart of a true writer who knows the ins and outs of the writer’s journey. This is obvious from the actions of both the protagonist and antagonist of the film. It also comes from the heart of a true horror fan as the suspense rises to nail biting heights.
True Fiction will hopefully gain distribution soon as I believe it’s a film that needs to be seen, especially by the writing community and the horror community. Stick around at Nightmare on Film Street on here, Twitter, reddit, and The Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook as we’ll be sure to let you know!