Courtesy of Shudder

[Review] Supernatural Horror FROM BLACK Takes a Slow-Burn Approach to Exploring The Darkness of Grief And Loss

Amongst the many tragic realities we face in this world, there is perhaps no horror greater than that of losing a child. In the Shudder Original movie From Black, director Thomas Marchese seeks to explore the depths of such an affliction and offer a dark and supernatural alternative to the healing process. 

When confronting the stages of grief, there is no blueprint for how long that process should take. This is how we are introduced to Anna Camp’s (True Blood) Cara, a young mother whose former drug use led to the disappearance of her son Noah seven years prior. Alienating herself from others, she begrudgingly attends a support group while holding on to the guilt of her failed motherhood. A fellow member of the group, Abel (John Ales, Euphoria), offers her an impossible opportunity: a chance to bring her son back. Desperate for resolution, Cara gives in to the outlandish temptation and allows Abel to lead her through an ancient ritual. Cara soon learns, however, that the ritual comes with a surprising cost and that reuniting with her son also means accepting a new darkness into her life. 

 

“…relies on a non-linear structure […and] establishes a sense of dread and a curiosity for what is to come.”

 

This story is built on the foundation of a great concept that presents the potential for intense emotions. With many modern horror movies taking an arthouse approach and leaning into philosophical and psychological themes, there are many blueprints from which this film could borrow. The movie ultimately takes its own path and, although the ideas of its theme are present, it feels unrealized in its totality. Much intrigue can be found in the most forbidden corners of the human psyche, an area this movie frustratingly avoids. 

The plot relies on a non-linear structure to give a glimpse of the story’s outcome before filling in the preceding events from Cara’s report at a police station. This approach, along with its ominous opening across barren landscapes, establishes a sense of dread and a curiosity for what is to come. As positive of a start as that is, the story does not offer much within its first forty minutes to maintain that mood.

 



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Its first half is built around Cara and her interactions with the world around her to establish her character’s depth and emotional state. Within those efforts, it is difficult to find any character progression as she converses with Abel, her sister, and her junkie ex-boyfriend. There is little wrong with the dialogue, as much of it seems written well enough, but the package in which it is delivered is repetitive and monotonous. Camp and Ales deliver good performances that outshine the material they were provided, with Camp really setting herself apart from previous light-hearted roles.

Towards the top of the hour, the movie transitions fully into its supernatural elements as the ritual and its secret cost come to light. Finally propelling the movie forward was the relief of being offered something to sink your teeth into, along with a well-constructed CGI entity. But again, these sequences felt tepid and formulaic, never landing a shock or significant threat. There are a couple of clever placements of the evil entity known as The Seeker, but any threat it poses felt muted. Perhaps the biggest culprit in the story’s lack of impactful horror is its pacing. More than just being a slow burn, the movie struggles to find any sense of momentum. There is also no true climax to which the story builds, leaving its pacing to feel flat from start to finish. 

 

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From Black is not completely devoid of its grief-stricken exploration. The dialogue exposes the vulnerability of loss and the resistance some can have toward accepting their way out of the darkness. Even the malevolent Seeker tries to convey the cost of obtaining the impossible in its attempts to entice Cara. However, in focusing on telling the audience what to see, the movie minimized the experience of its story’s weight, never offering the opportunity to further pursue its more thought-provoking angles.

Shudder’s newest offering will not appeal to everyone but may find an audience in those who prefer a slow-burning story. It makes a valiant effort to make up for what it lacks in scares and emotional blows with its elevated cast performances. A haunting presence that does not hide away in the shadows leads to what could be an intriguing reflection of the grieving process. As Cara is faced with her incomparable decision, we too are challenged with the conundrum of what we would sacrifice to undo our greatest failure.  

 

From Black will not appeal to everyone but may find an audience in those who prefer a slow-burning story.”

 

Thomas Marchese From Black hits Shudder April 28. Let us know what you thought of this supernatural slow-burn over on Twitter or in the Nightmare on Film Street Discord! Not a social media fan? Get more horror delivered straight to your inbox by joining the Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter.

 

[Review] Supernatural Horror FROM BLACK Takes a Slow-Burn Approach to Exploring The Darkness of Grief And Loss
TL;DR
Although From Black may struggle to land with the general audience, its performances and guilt-driven narrative is likely to appeal to those preferring fewer scares and more character work. Competing against its tepid pace leaves the movie feeling unrealized with a concept that warrants deeper exploration. There are moments when the story’s good ideas peek through, but more frequently find themselves buried under the production’s technical distractions.
Story Concept
70
Pacing
40
Supernatural Dread
55
Performances
75
60
SCORE
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