Dir. Phedon Papamichael. 2008. USA . 90mins.
Although he is a well-regarded cinematographer (Sideways, I Walk The Line), Phedon Papamichael's third foray into directing is little more than another hackneyed horror film. The visuals are assured, but Keene 's screenplay relentlessly piles on the cliches. Without recognizable stars and indistinguishable from most offerings on late-night cable, From Within will have problems getting off the ground theatrically, though it could perform in ancillary.
The opening sequence is enticing. A handsome young man and beautiful teen girl kiss by the side of a lake. Suddenly he pulls out a gun and blows his brains out. His traumatised date runs back to her father's dress shop and within hours stabs herself in the neck. Within hours her father has hanged himself. This experienced DP-turned-director has created a photogenic atmosphere - but he quickly subverts it..
Papamichael and Keene don't really explain the events onscreen. Instead, the viewer is left to draw the sense that the film is setting up some kind of opposition between 'good' and 'evil' - as if the contrast were something new rather than a basic tenet of movie narrative since the medium's inception. In the small American community of Grovetown where all of this transpires, fundamentalist Christianity and its megachurch are monolithic, not to be questioned or defied. The church's longtime pastor is not entirely unreasonable, but his hotheaded teenaged son, Dylan (Blatz), assumes the role of moral enforcer.
Dylan's, Lindsay (Rice), gets a bit too close to a handsome young nonbeliever, Aidan (Dekker), brother of the suicide from the first scene. Blinded by love and intolerance, Dylan assaults Aidan, then hunts him down with a fanatical group of Christian vigilantes who hold him and his family responsible for the rash of suicides. The suddenness of the epidemic turns even normally rational townspeople against Aidan and his family, whom they consider cursed.
For no apparent reason, Papamichael has earlier suicides reappear-on roads, in rooms, wherever - to jolt potential victims into panic. At one point Aidan instructs Lindsay to destroy 'the book' - what book' - to stop the curse. She does so, but the suicides continue to pile up, as if it were laundry day.
The acting, mostly screams and shrieks, is unremarkable, so that the reactions of fright - almost always heavily signaled by held chords - aren't convincing from the get-go.
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