Wednesday 20 September 2023

From the Shadows (2022) - Horror Film Review

Coming from director Mike Sargent (who co-wrote this alongside Ian Holt and Michael Kuciak), From the Shadows tries to achieve a lot with quite a little. In a similar vein to Host, this almost found footage style horror mostly takes place from the perspective of a laptop screen. Where this falls down is how reliant on in-film fictional knowledge the characters are, making for many bizarre and unfathomable actions.

When nearly every member of a strange cult dies in a mysterious fire, suspicion falls on the five survivors, who for various reasons where not in the building when the tragic event occured. Paranormal expert, Dr. Amara Rowan (Selena Anduze - WandaVision TV series, The Haunting of Hill House TV series) has decided to make a documentary about the survivors, and has managed to convince them all to take part in a Zoom call with her. The call takes a turn for the weird however when it begins to appear that the strange supernatural beliefs the group have might actually have some basis in reality. A weird situation becomes even more distressing when a shadowy figure begins to kill off the surviving cult members one by one.

Things get off to a bad start with a series of segments that include well known people playing the roles. These, which include among them Dr. Dre playing himself only served to muddy the waters a bit, with their parts offering zero importance to anything that occurs. With the legendary Keith David getting top billing, I imagined his role too would be small. At least there things are gotten right, with him initially seeming like his character (Dr. Leonard Bertram) was only going to feature in old recordings, but he becomes much more integral to the story being told.

With around 90% of the movie taking place over laptop screens, this had an unfortunate side effect of making each of the actors feeling like they were isolated from each other, and as a result it gives a lack of chemistry over the group. With a far reaching story, many odd terms and assumed knowledge is presented to the viewer. Something called 'Alphas' is a type of magical ability that give members of the cult the ability to affect things in the world. Something like that, it was never properly explained, and after Dr. Rowan starts to believe in it herself there is no further attempt to explain things. This led to me really not understanding what on earth was going on. I got the basic gist that something is targeting the survivors of the cult massacre, but the protagonists attempts to combat this went straight over my head.
There are lots of special effects here, with them being very hit and miss. The majority of these are CG effects, and more often than not they look too clean and artificial to really gel with the real world. Special mention goes to the almost cartoon-like shadow people. On occasion, truth be told, some of these effects did work, and the practical effects, such as the lovely violent death scenes were fun to watch, with blood effects that were satisfying.

I wanted to enjoy From the Shadows more than I did, but I just couldn't get a good grasp of what was going on. With a sedate pace at odds with the apparently world endangering situation, actors who all felt like they were performing to themselves rather than as part of a group, and a feeling that I had missed out on an important bit of context. It is not entirely bad, especially the fun death scenes, and Keith David was effortlessly entertaining. This atmospheric story had great potential, but that potential felt squandered somewhat.


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