Strange things are happening in Grovetown, Maryland.
Sitting out on the dock, Sean (Shiloh Fernandez) reads from a book while his girlfriend, Natalie (Rumer Willis), waits. After he finishes reading, he promptly shoots himself in the head.
Natalie staggers back to her father’s dress shop and says that someone is following her. She then ducks into a backroom and stabs herself in the neck with a pair of scissors.
The next day, Natalie father (Jared Harris) hangs himself in the back of his shop.
And the deaths continue, one after another. One girl crashes her car while screaming that someone is following her. Another cuts her wrists on a broken window. A recovering alcoholic drinks drain cleaner….
Normally, all of this death would be a cause for panic (or, at the very least, a sudden surge of people moving out of town) but the citizens of Grovetown are all confident in their ability to survive. That’s because almost all of them are members of the same megachurch, led by the charismatic Pastor Joe (Steven Culp). They believe that the deaths are the results of witch’s curse. Perhaps all they have to do is kill the witch’s descendants….
Now, the witch’s son, Aidan (Thomas Dekker), is willing to admit that yes, it’s possible that his mother put a curse the town. And it’s also possible that it was the suicide of his brother Sean that unlocked the curse and activated all of the deaths. But Aidan still swears that it’s the townspeople themselves who are choosing to commit suicide. If anything, the curse is just pushing them toward the inevitable….
Of course, complicating things is the fact that Aidan has kind of fallen in love with Lindsay (Elizabeth Rice) and Lindsay is dating Dylan (Kelly Blatz), the fanatical son of Pastor Joe. Aidan and Lindsay think that they may have found a way to stop the curse but Dylan is more interested in just killing Aidan. Working with Dylan is a white trash pyromaniac named Roy (Adam Goldberg) and you really haven’t lived until you’ve seen Adam Goldberg play a white trash pyromaniac.
Anyway, From Within is a film about which I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, the film is full of creepy moments. On the other hand, it keeps getting bogged down in its attempt to say something meaningful about religious fanaticism. I mean, we know that Pastor Joe, Dylan, and Roy are all bad news as soon as they start talking about how religious they are because this is a movie and religious people are always evil hypocrites in movies. At times, this movie comes across as if it thinks it’s the first movie to ever suggest that maybe not all religious people are as perfect as they claim.
Far more effective are the scenes involving the curse. Whenever someone falls victim to the curse, they find themselves being chased by their own doppelgänger, which leads to some incredibly creepy moments. (When the doppelgänger appeared in a mirror and compelled one woman to drink bleach, it totally freaked me out.) These scenes reminded me a bit of It Follows, though it’s important to note that From Within was released in 2008, seven years before It Follows.
From Within is an uneven film, a bit frustrating in its pretensions but undeniably effective in its scares.