Dir. Thomas Marchese (2023)
A recovering drug addict is offered the chance to make things right. How far will she go to do so?
CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
A lot of modern horror deals with trauma and its aftereffects, the conceptualization of past injuries as a haunting presence or an evil monster lurking behind the scenes. Movies like The Babadook personified grief, playing with emotion as a physically embodied beast seeking to make its presence felt outside as well as in. What is not often discussed, however, is trauma that is directly caused by the characters in the film, those who are responsible for all of the bad things that have happened to them and who struggle with guilt, true guilt, towards the events for which they are to blame. Director Thomas Marchese's new film From Black, premiering today on Shudder, deals with this exact topic, the remorse that haunts a young mother when a child goes missing due to parental neglect and drug use.
Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect) plays Cora, the aforementioned former druggie who is trying to rehab her life but continues to struggle with the guilt from her previous life. She is introduced to a ritual that can bring her son back by another parent, Abel (John Ales, Euphoria), who has recently done the same for his daughter. As with any of these bizarre witchy practices, there's a price to pay for raising the dead, and Cora decides to pay it no matter what it may cost her. The film opens after the ritual has been done when Cora's police officer sister Bray (Jennifer Lafleur, Nope) finds her bloodied and broken in a house that has seen better days, alternating timelines between the investigation into what happened and what led up to these brutal results.
Camp and Ales are fantastic in their roles, dripping heartache and hope in every scene. It's a gorgeously shot film, the brightly lit surroundings belying the darkness encroaching the frame. It's also a genuinely creepy film with some nightmarish visuals, nothing particularly groundbreaking but still containing some Silent Hill-esque creature effects. And how many times are we going to have to learn that anything that involves us sitting inside a circle of salt is not something of which we want to partake?
There's a bit of the film in the middle that feels jumbled, largely because it's just a tad too long. The hour-and-forty runtime really should've been closer to an hour-twenty, but the scenes that could've been cut would've likely made it a worse movie, so it's a tough call either way. It's really a film that could've used a few tweaks more than a rewrite, as everything is there for a great story and it's all put together fairly efficiently. Minor gripes, really, and didn't really hurt the film as a whole.
As it stands, From Black is a creepy dissection of grief, guilt, and sacrifice, a modern horror film in every sense of the word. It's stylish, filled with great performances, and carries an emotional weight that most modern horror tries in vain to achieve. For a low-budget film with indie sensibilities, its a home run. Maybe I'm overselling a little, but I absolutely loved this one, and I'm hoping that you do too.
Who this movie is for: Modern horror lovers, Emotional horror fans, Salt salesmen
Bottom line: A gutpunch of a horror movie with some creatures as terrifying as its concept, From Black is a delightful slow burn horror that hits on all cylinders for me. Anna Camp is outstanding as the lead and director Thomas Marchese shows what he's capable of. It's a slow burn movie but progresses a lot faster than most others in that category, so it'll hold your attention even if you're not one to like slower horror. Definitely recommend checking this one out, and it's new today on Shudder.