|Movie: From Within
Studio: Burgundy Films
Director: Phedon Papamichael
Stars: Elizabeth Rice, Thomas Dekker, Kelly Blatz
Length: 89 Minutes
Sub-Genres: Witchcraft / Supernatural
Plot: A perpetual string of gruesome suicides plagues a small town. And the reason for this plague may be well-deserved.
Review: The movie that comes to mind when I hear this premise is M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening,” which was also released in 2008 and was built around an inexplicable phenomenon of mass suicides. Thankfully, “From Within” is far better than “The Happening,” but I guess that’s not saying much. The eventual explanation for this film’s suicides is much better than Shyamalan’s, to be sure.
Director Phedon Papamichael’s film, “From Within” (2008), has a number of promising ideas for a horror flick: For example, imagine facing off against an evil specter of certain death when the grim reaper I’m referring to is actually one’s own self! That’s right — in “From Within,” the fatal omen is seeing a disturbing version of yourself, coming to kill you in a violent manner that will look like suicide to everyone else, but will feel like cold-blooded murder to you.
Now, if you think about this for a minute, you’ll realize that Papamichael has a clever, circular idea at play here in his film. When a person commits suicide, he takes his own life. But in this movie, there is, for lack of a better description, an evil version of the victims’ selves, killing themselves. So, on one hand, they seem to be murdered by an external force, or another being, but since they appear to be murdered by themselves, isn’t that technically still suicide? Neat, right? Not to mention, being killed by yourself seems like the ultimate betrayal, a concept that’s horrifying in itself.
Another interesting spin that screenwriter Brad Keene gives us is the role reversal of the evil religious zealots versus the sympathetic family of witches. I am reminded of Isaiah’s biblical prophecy which speaks of them that “call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness.” But we see in “From Within” that evil is everywhere, and therefore, inescapable. Keene does more than play with our assessments of good and evil. In many ways, “From Within” is a cautionary tale for intolerance. The subtext seems to be that intolerance of others turns into self-loathing, which in turn, eventually results in self-destruction.
The director, Phedon Papamichael, is actually a long-time cinematographer-turned-director, so he’s no rookie to the film industry. In fact, he was the director of photography on a giant list of mainstream (and some award-winning) well-known film titles, such as “The Descendants,” “Knight and Day,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “Walk the Line,” “Sideways,” “Identity,” and “Cool Runnings,” just to name a few. He also directed “Dark Side of Genius” in 1994. In short, the captain at the helm of this film is a good one, but for some reason that I’m having trouble identifying, “From Within” doesn’t amount to a noteworthy horror film.
Perhaps it’s forgettable. For example, just to give you an idea of how mild the witchcraft theme is in this movie, as I wrote this review, I was planning an upcoming Horror Metropolis episode with a witchcraft theme, in conjunction with Rob Zombie’s forthcoming “The Lords of Salem” (2012). And even though I have been writing the review for “From Within” for the past few hours, it never even came to mind when I was thinking about possible picks for witchcraft movies… So, what does that tell you?
Sure, there are a couple of good kills, such as a big pair of scissors jabbed into a girl’s neck. We’re shown the aftermath, but not the attack. I like the scenery in this film, as well; it was shot in Maryland. How many films are shot in Maryland? The sound design is decent, too, because the victims’ alter egos make this creepy growling noise. But without a doubt, the scariest part of this film is a painting of one character’s great grandmother in the nude (regrettably painted in her later years). Yikes. I bet there’s a story behind that painting (and I’d love to hear it), but there’s no trivia provided on IMDb. If you know anything about that freaky painting, please post a comment below.
“From Within” is just barely below par to qualify for a rental in my book, and ultimately I’d say avoid it … unless, of course, somebody is trying to make you watch “The Happening.” In that case, “From Within” is the lesser of two evils.
DVD Contest: Here is the long-awaited, 2-DVD, 8 horror movie give-away contest word: “Meatloaf.” Helpful hint: The other word you’ll need to win is spoken during Episode 004 of the Horror Metropolis podcast. After you collect these two words, be the first to e-mail HorrorMetropolis@gmail.com and you’ll win! Good luck.
To hear horror movie reviews from Jay of the Dead and his cohorts, listen to Horror Metropolis.
| Reviewer: Jay of the Dead
Social Media: N/A