For some of its running time, True Fiction is almost a mirror image of Misery – as a fan is held captive and subjected to terrifying experiments by a horror writer – but it has some extra twists held back, not all of which make sense.
Librarian and book-lover Avery (Sara Garcia), an aspiring writer, takes a job as an assistant to reclusive author Caleb Conrad (John Cassini) and is ferried out to his remote mansion, where she puts up with lectures from the sinister fellow. Avery is required to undergo a series of procedures, including polygraph interrogation and a spell in a sensory deprivation gimp suit, supposedly designed to explore her fear. This will give Conrad, who has been going off the boil creatively, fresh insights into the sorts of things he writes about, but maybe he’s gone too far into the darkness to come back and wants to create his next horror drama for real (true fiction) with Avery in the victim role. The games also feature a masked slasher with a machete, and signposted clues – Conrad’s signature on a contract differs from the one in a signed book – that encourage speculation along other lines. There’s even the ever-popular possibility that Avery is still in sensory deprivation, and fantasising it all – in effect collaborating with Conrad on her own nightmare.
Writer-director Braden Croft spins variations on several well-known stories about writers and game-playing (Sleuth and Death Trap as well as Misery) to pick at such oft-raised questions as ‘where authors get their ideas from?’ and ‘why do horror novelists choose such unpleasant things to write about?’ Familiar supporting player Cassini (also in Volition) gets a rare lead as Conrad, and wisely underplays the crazy – stringing out the possibility that he’s a genuine innocent even as he seems to take part in more and more upsetting actions – while Garcia is credibly harrowed as the heroine/patsy.
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