Something terrible is afflicting the small American town of Grovetown. A suicide epidemic has taken hold causing the townsfolk to kill themselves in assorted grisly ways. Sounds interesting? Think again. While the premise to From Within may look great on paper, this dreary, unimaginatively executed mess manages to make its 90 minute running time seem like an eternity.
Making its international debut at Montreal’s Fantasia film festival, From Within starts off well enough. A goth couple sit by a riverbank sharing a touching moment, only to have their idyllic interlude shattered when the boyfriend inserts a revolver in his mouth and pulls the trigger. Cut to a clothing boutique in the small, tight-knit town of Grovetown and the brain-splattered girl (Willis) runs in screaming that a strange woman is after her. From there suicides ensue as each person to last come into contact with each successive victim, takes their own life.
Cinematographer Papamichael (3:10 to Yuma) takes over the director’s chair and quickly squanders what little positive capital he manages to build in the film’s promising first 20 minutes by telling a story that is both cliché riddled and devoid of any suspense. Townsfolk are depicted as hypocritical bible thumping stereotypes who spout words like “thee” and “smite” while toting shotguns, guzzling booze and boinking anything that moves. I suppose this may work with less demanding viewers, but somebody failed to remind screenwriter Keene (The Gravedancers) that boat sailed away from the shores of reality a long time ago. Juxtaposed against these yahoos are the remnants of a family of wiccans who are bent on revenge for the townsfolk’s burning their mother alive several years previous for being a witch. Turns out the suicide thing is a curse they’ve launched against the village that is now coming back to bite them in the rear after the religiously-conflicted Lindsay (Rice), recently smitten by wiccan Aidan (Dekker), becomes a candidate for the body-hopping suicide bug.
Given that audiences at fantasy horror film fests are generally sympathetic fan boys willing to overlook flaws that would appall most critics, it wasn’t a good sign to hear the audience laugh at unintended moments. When you add to that the sounds of shifting butts in seats and sporadic yawns, it was apparent that even those friendly to the genre were looking at their watches and wondering when their suffering would end. Really, when the best moment I can point to in a movie is when the theatre lights came on, it’s safe to say that this is one clunker that deserves a pass.