US (dir. Phedon Papamichael)
Cast: Adam Goldberg, Amanda Babin, Brittany Robertson, Elizabeth Rice, Jared Harris Kelly Blatz, Laura Allen, Margo Harshman, Rumer Willis, Steven Culp, Thomas Dekker
Synopsis: A rash of suicides hit the small community of Grovetown, causing fear and panic among local residents. As those around 18-year-old Lindsay continue to die gruesomely, she begins to distrust everyone and she suspects that she will become the next victim.
Review: Stupid as the premise of the movie may sound, “From Within” is actually a considerably good movie and a pretty solid effort in the After Dark Horrorfest. After the God-fearing people of Smalltown, USA kill off a suspected witch, a rash of what appears to be suicides begins to spread. In actuality, the townspeople are being slowly killed off, one at a time, by their own mirror images (the creepiest Doppelgangers ever, since they come from within a mirror). It’s a lot like “The Broken”, but not as good or as scary, and it’s a lot like “Mirrors” but with a better story and no CGI jaw-ripping scenes. I can honestly say I enjoyed this movie, however there are a few flaws and some unnecessary scenes and characters which, had the movie gone without, could have only made it better.
Thanks to “The Broken” (and now, “From Within”) I’ve developed a crippling fear of my own mirror image. If you’ve seen “The Broken” and were like, “Sweet! I want more!”, then “From Within” is for you. If you saw “Mirrors” and thought, “Christ this sucks. And why is Keifer Sutherland in this?” than I suggest you check out ‘From Within”. Not only is “From Within” better than “Mirrors” but it’s also scarier and there’s no overblown ending that goes back to events from years ago in an attempt to remedy some past grievance (something “Silent Hill” also suffered from). So now with the addition of “From Within” to the horror movie annals, we have three films that deal with your mirror image attempting to destroy you.
On a side note: In attempting to establish a time line of who came up with the killer mirror Doppelganger idea first and who copied which movie, I found out that all three movies were (first) released in 2008. “The Broken” was the first out (in January) followed closely by “From Within” (in April) and funny enough, both ended up in the After Dark Horrorfest 3. “Mirrors” came out last (in August) thereby cementing its place as the inferior film in both quality and “tardy to the mirror party” release time (LOL). So really, I cannot veritably say who stole whose idea, since I’m not sure who started pre-production first. But it looks as though “The Broken” was the first, and not coincidentally, the best of the bunch. Kudos to “From Within” however, because had that movie come out long after “The Broken” I would have bemoaned the fact that the film is a rip-off of a previous one.
Unlike “The Broken” and to some extent, “Mirrors”, all the deaths by mirror image in this movie are meant to look like suicides as part of the witch curse. There are some effectively creepy suicide/mirror murder scenes, but sometimes too much of something ain’t all that good. In “From Within”, there were so many suicide scenes that it eventually became tedious rather than exciting, to sit through yet another friend or family member of our main girl (Lindsay) die a graphic, mirror double induced, death. I think at most, 3 or 4 such scenes would suffice. Instead, this movie can’t seem to go for an extended stretch of time without showing a kill scene. “The Broken” seemed to have no problem abstaining from repetitive mirror image kills, and it was more captivating to boot. “From Within” seems to have this need to force feed us with constant suicides, death, and violence in order to capture our attention while sacrificing time that could have been spent either on the story or on the characters or both.
Those unnecessary scenes and characters I spoke of earlier? Well there really is only one of each. In terms of the scene, I really felt the whole attempted exorcism bit could have been excised. It does nothing for the story, nothing for the characters, nothing new really develops out of this, and just when you think something unexpectedly scary will happen (or expectedly, considering it’s an exorcism scene) nothing does. The subject of the exorcism (Lindsay) just gets dropped off at home and the movie goes forward as if nothing even happened. In terms of the unnecessary character, I felt that Sadie (coincidentally played by Margo Harshman, who would go on to play a slutty alcoholic sorority sister in the unnecessary and God-awful remake, “Sorority Row”) was an absolutely pointless character (she plays the cousin of the dead witch’s son) who was not only morbid and annoying, but constantly interrupting things with her supposedly sly jokes and dark humour. Cut her out completely and this movie wouldn’t need to sacrifice a good flow for attempted witty remarks and some crass sexual jokes.
One of the great things about the casting choices in this film is that everyone fits that “we live in Smalltown USA” look (with the exception of Margo Harshman and, *sigh*, Rumer Willis who are both, coincidentally enough, also in “Sorority Row”). The town outsider (and son to the dead witch) is played by smoking hot hottie Thomas Dekker who, if Robert Pattinson had not been born, would have been a shoe-in for Edward in the “Twilight” series because he is just so damn good at bringing the moody gloom to the big screen. And before you roll your eyes at your computer screen, “From Within” is a pretty damn gloomy, dreary movie from the very beginning to the absolute end, so Dekker’s moody brooding eyes are just the dark little cherry on the black icing decorated cheesecake that this film is. Apparently he was also in “Laid to Rest” but due to my dislike for that particular film, you won’t catch me re-watching it to see him in it again.
From the look of the actors and actresses, to the dialogue, to the gloomy dreary tone, director Phedon Papamichael makes this movie look and feel as natural as possible, even making the creepy mirror image doubles integrate naturally into every death scene. The big shocker ending makes you think the movie has gone one way, until you find out a bit later that its gone a completely different (and unexpected) path. Well done, and well executed. Something that is brought up once or twice but not really developed fully, is the idea of loneliness and isolation in a small town and the concept of self-destructi0n. Had these concepts been fleshed out more instead of spending so much time showing kill scenes and arguing about the spell needed to reverse the witch curse, this movie could have been so much better. If you take it as it is, “From Within” is a neat little feature that may have you cautiously avoiding looking into a mirror after dark.