What role does the precarity of labour play in young people choosing to take on dangerous jobs? In the #MeToo era, how does one go about separating an artist’s actions from their work? Is anonymity possible in the 21st century? What is the difference between violence and a simulation of violence? If unethical acts lead to brilliant art, is it ethical to consume the art? What do these questions have in common? Well, for one, they would all make great concepts for cinematic horror; for another, if you stick them all in a blender and pour it into one film, it will not end well.
This latter example is Braden Croft’s mishmash True Fiction, a movie of half-baked ideas with attempts at subversion that result in a constantly changing narrative; eventually suffering from a lack of identity and a generic ending, one which is unavoidable in hindsight.
True Fiction follows aspiring writer Avery Malone (Sara Garcia) who finds herself interviewing for an assistant position to famed author Caleb Conrad (John Cassini). Of course, this being a horror movie, Conrad doesn’t want an assistant; he wants a guinea pig. After agreeing to partake in an experiment, Conrad puts his new employee through a series of experiments, leading to her becoming unable to differentiate between fact and fiction.
The blending of realities would work much better if both leads were not so artificial in their performances, performing archetypes as opposed to individuals. This artificiality ensures that, when the reality becomes a simulation, it will have no real power because there will be no change in characterization which, in turn, makes everything look much more ridiculous. After all, if the simulation is indeed indistinguishable from reality, then the actions of the victim trying to survive cannot be in any way questioned.
True Fiction’s biggest crime, other than wasting the brilliant Julian Richings, is the fact that it does not attempt anything with this simulated idea and decides to give in the moment matters become too complicated, abandoning any nuance for a generic horror ending. After all, why experiment when established tropes sell so well?
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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam