From Within (2008)

In vehemently religious, small town America, a teenager sticks a gun in his mouth and promptly commits suicide in front of his bewildered girlfriend. This tragic event seems to have a domino effect as one by one, the residents of the town in Maryland follow suit and kill themselves in a variety of different and bizarre ways. The events follow the return of Aiden, whose Mother was killed by the towns motley crew of Christian zealots who believed her to be a modern day witch. When Aiden is befriended by Lindsay, a respectable and innocent girl who happens to be dating the son of the town Minister, religious fervour reaches an all time high as the townsfolk suspect the boy of having something to do with the recent suicides, and they vow to deal with him in the same way they dealt with his Mother all those years ago.

At the centre of From Within is a great idea but its execution could have been much better. Certain plot strands are a little muddled, meaning that what could have been a terrific little supernatural horror, is somewhat marred by some confusing subtext and a lack of any real scares or tension.

The film is carried by Elizabeth Rice who manages to conjure up the necessary emotional depth and therefore gets the audiences sympathy which is integral to whether the film works or not. The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ Thomas Dekker on the other hand, substitutes enigmatic and troubled for moody and mumbly and while he’s not awful, he could surely have plumbed the acting depths for something a bit more than is offered. The adults are all played well, Laura Allen is a believably troubled alcoholic and the always watchable Adam Goldberg is given a chance to step outside his usual neurotic Jewish shtick and flex his serious acting muscles for a change. Rumer Willis and Jared Harris are also good in brief but essential roles in the first half of the flick.

Directed by accomplished cinematographer Phedon Papamichael, From Within looks fantastic. Most scenes are bathed in hues of either red and gold or blues and greens, depending on the mood of the particular scene, but all look amazing. He might not have any experience behind the lens but what he lacks in directorial know-how, he more than makes up for in visual proficiency.

Blurring the line between good and evil and questioning the beliefs that many hold true, From Within is a neat little horror that suffers from some confused plot developments, a few too many characters and no real tension to speak of. The film is saved by some outstanding visual flourishes, some good performances and a chillingly memorable finale that plays out while the end credits roll. From Within is one of the better films to come out of the Horrorfest 8 Films To Die For stable recently, if nothing else.

Rating: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

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