Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
August 1st, 2009

From Within

From Within
Directed by Phedon Papamichael
Written by Brad Keene
Starring Elizabeth Rice, Thomas Dekker, Kelly Blatz, Laura Allen
95 mins

So we're coming into the home stretch for this year's After Dark Horrorfest, and so far, I've been unsettlingly right. So far, the After Dark Horrorfest has produced mostly good movies, with only a couple that could merely be called mediocre. The fact that I've been this right so far suggests that I'm likely to be really, really wrong at some point, and the more I go through merely increases the chances that I've put the dog near the top rank. Okay, sure, maybe this is the year there isn't a dog, but we all know how unlikely THAT is, especially given the last two seasons.

And this time, we're seguing into From Within, a movie that sounds eerily reminiscent of earlier H.P. Lovecraft releases.  In fact, this one's about an eighteen year old girl who's living in the midst of a serious problem--lots of people around her are killing themselves.  But are they really killing themselves, or is something much stranger in progress around her? 

When you first start watching this one you may get the distinct impression that it's yet another in a long string of "those" kind of movies that involve weird mirror images of people. From Within won't do a whole lot to dissuade you from that misconception, though they'll actually encourage it in more than a few points. But what they won't tell you is how little that actually means to the overall plot. The plot they're actually establishing will be much more diabolical.

Yes, I did spoiler just a bit there, but only to clear away a bit of the red herring fog so when you find out what's actually going on it will make a bit more sense. Otherwise, it might have been confusing.

You're welcome.

Anyway, once again I find I haven't been stymied. From Within is a solid piece of horror-thriller action with a lot going on. The town around our eighteen year old heroine hides plenty of unpleasant secrets that you'll find out over the course of the film, and though they seem extraordinarily pious on the outside, you'll find out that piety is little more than a whitewash for the town's true nature. Better still, there are lots of surprises and plenty of good scary moments to be had here.

The ending, in fact, may be one of the downright creepiest pieces of footage in a long while, despite the fact that you'll likely see it coming.

The special features include audio options, a set of trailers only accessible at the beginning of the film (I have to admit, I HATE when they do that), Miss Horrorfest webisodes and English and Spanish subtitles.

All in all, I'm pleased with From Within, and hope the last two of the series turn out at least as good as this one did.

The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations

The Butterfly Effect Three: Revelations
Directed by Seth Grossman
Written by Holly Brix
Starring Chris Carmack, Rachel Miner
Produced by AJ Dix, Chris Bender, JC Spink, Anthony Rhulen
90 mins

Okay, this is the part where I start sweating bullets. I'm not a hundred percent sure I've found the dog of the After Dark Horrorfest yet, and if it's going to happen anywhere, it's probably going to happen here. This is the one no one saw coming, the third iteration of a movie that was a vastly worse result than its good idea implied it would be.

See, I love time travel stories. Call it personal bias, but I love, LOVE!, seeing what happens when you change something about the past. It's amazing how much of what we know about our lives depends on so very little. Just alter one thing and suddenly the entire world you know is different, the chain of cause and effect wrapping around your entire life to affect everyone you've ever come in contact with, and everyone THEY'VE ever come in contact with and so on, the ripples spreading outward until they engulf all of humanity. Next time you're feeling insignificant, remember that: what you do today could affect everybody tomorrow.

Anyway, that in mind, that's also what this is about. Sam has the unique gift of being able to travel through time. If he uses his gift passively, it becomes a valuable tool, allowing him to be an eyewitness at any crime, any time. But should he ever INTERACT with the past, use that gift actively, then he might alter the world in any of a hundred ways. When Sam gets a personal request for help, he uses his gift actively. And that's when everything goes wrong.

Actually, that's when everything goes wrong over and over and over again. See, the BAD part about the Butterfly Effect series--this was a HUGE theme in the first one--is that pretty much whenever you go back in time to change a bad thing, you end up CAUSING something worse. Go back in time to prevent one death, you cause two. Try to prevent two, you'll blow off your own legs. Try to prevent losing your legs and you'll set fire to Pittsburgh. And so on right down the line. There is, according to The Butterfly Effect, NO WAY to change your past so that it's better than the present. If The Butterfly Effect is any indication, if you go back in time often enough you'll destroy the entire planet, and you'll do it in a fashion where literally EVERYBODY drowns in their own septic tanks and goes straight to hell afterward.

It's hard to say much about this movie one way or the other. The basic concept is there, if a bit pessimistic, and the movie sticks to its concept like glue. But it's really little more than a series of murders until about the last fifteen minutes or so.

The ending, the last fifteen minutes or so, you see, is where this one starts to shine. A collection of out-of-nowhere surprises literally pummels the viewer, and in a much better fashion than its predecessors. It's hard to believe that this is actually better than the original, but that's the case.

The special features include Miss Horrorfest webisodes, audio options, and English and Spanish subtitles. I'd include the trailers but they're inaccessible from the menu.

All in all, I really had my doubts about this one. I thought sure that, if anything was going to be the dog of the After Dark Horrorfest, it was going to be this one. But no, once again the Horrorfest has surprised me and shown me that, with precious few exceptions, only the best makes it in.