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From Within
cast: Elizabeth Rice, Thomas Dekker, Kelly Blatz, Laura Allen, and Adam Goldberg

director: Phedon Papamichael

89 minutes (18) 2008
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
E1 DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Gary McMahon
From Within is another in a recent bunch of Hollywood horror films that seems to struggle with its own identity. During the opening scene, the film seems to set out its stall as being something like a supernatural version of River's Edge, but soon after that initial scene-setting, things begin to go slightly downhill... but thankfully not so far that it ruins what amounts to a decent viewing experience.

A series of teenage suicides rock the small American community of Grovetown, but the deeply religious townsfolk cling to their beliefs and try to pretend that nothing unusual is going on at the heart of their town. Lindsay (Elizabeth Rice) is a young student who begins to realise that all is not right in her hometown. She befriends Aiden (Thomas Dekker), an unbeliever and the brother of the first suicide, and between them they start to uncover a secret history which involves the death of Aiden's pagan mother and past tensions with Grovetown's religious leaders.

The filmmakers deserve kudos for trying something original. With its themes of organised mainstream religion versus alternative beliefs, tolerance and prejudice, the story seems somehow fresher than a lot of other modern American horror movies out there at the minute. The central performances from the young leads are pretty solid, and the film looks great - there's even a sort of indie feel to the whole thing, which adds to its edge. There's also an admirable sense of restraint, with a noticeable lack of gore being thrown around the screen.

But for some reason From Within isn't as good as it should be. Something doesn't quite gel. I wanted to like it a lot more than I actually did, but that doesn't mean that I disliked it. Therein lies the problem, I think: it's okay, not bad. The scares, when they arrive, are occasionally a little bland but often quite unnerving, and the more serious elements suffer because of rather hackneyed plot devices - an ancient curse, a book of spells.

After the sedate and intriguing opening chapters, the third act sadly descends into a kitchen-sink style mishmash of familiar horror tropes and ideas. This is where the identity crisis comes in: the film doesn't seem to know if it wants to be a creepy, subtle drama about teenagers raised in an environment of religious intolerance or a full-on supernatural scare fest. I think it needed more focus; a stronger direction to sort out these inherent problems.

Having said all that, I did enjoy the film. It's a solid horror thriller with a serious heart and deserves to do well with a DVD audience.
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