Saturday, March 26, 2011

Horror Film Review

From a Place of Darkness (2008):  That's an awful movie poster (the title's not much better).  What, did they hand off the job to a group of kindergartners?  Ten minutes on PhotoShop would give you better artwork.  Hell, a box of crayons and a sheet of construction paper would give you better artwork.  Anyway, I knew nothing about this film, had read nothing about this film, and therefore had no expectations of this film.  It's amazing how much can be forgiven if you go into a movie thinking it will most likely suck. 

Documentary filmmaker Miles (Travis Schuldt) is interested in snuff films.  He finds a guy who makes them named Vic (John Savage) and proceeds to interview him in the abandoned warehouse where the people are snuffed.  When reviewing his footage, Miles discovers the ghosts of Vic's vics are still hanging around.  Miles' brother Sean (Conor Duffy) convinces him to meet with potential investor Carl (Bronson Pinchot) who turns out to be very interested.  Problem is, when you watch Vic's snuff footage, you kind of become addicted...or possessed.  Miles figures out Vic has ulterior motives and is something other than he appears to be.  Of course by that time, Miles, Sean, Carl, Miles' wife Brenda (Natalie Zea), and Sean's wife Rose (Valery Ortiz) have all congregated at the warehouse where the carnage is about to begin.

The lapses of logic and holes in the plot are utterly staggering.  If you got a guy confessing to killing folks on film, wouldn't you, oh, I don't know, call the freaking cops?  Or if you see a red-eyed shadow figure lurking in the basement, wouldn't you, oh, I don't know, run like your ass was on fire?  Beyond the actions of the characters, however, there are basic elements of the story that are simply too murky.  Are the ghosts really ghosts or are they projections of Vic's evil?  Is Vic a ghost himself, a demon, the devil, or a man with supernatural abilities?  I still don't know.  And they do a thing with an air compressor hose that's just plain silly.


Acting:  Poke fun if you want, but I've always liked Bronson Pinchot as an actor.  He plays a great asshole.  Savage, whose most famous role was in The Deer Hunter, is perfectly creepy.  Shuldt is the weak link, but not embarrassingly so.
Story:  Sort of Saw meets Thir13en Ghosts.  Interesting idea that needed more fleshing out.  And more humor.
Direction:  Tidy enough. Douglas A. Raine has worked as assistant director on a number of films including Broken Arrow, The Ghost and the Darkness, and Men of Honor so technically he knows what he's doing. 
Production Values:  You don't get that low-budget vibe from this movie.  I know the budget was only half a million dollars (literally nothing in Hollywood terms) but they made the most of it. 
Gore/FX:  There's good blood but nothing too gruesome (if you can get past the opening scene, you'll be fine).  Otherwise, most of the FX involve that thing where the ghost shows up on the video camera's little screen but not right in front of it.
Ending:  Now here's where I got annoyed.  Not because of the climax (which was decent) but because they tacked on a second ending (which was pointless and dumb).  I felt like Sally Field in Steel Magnolias when she's in the cemetery screaming, "Why?  Why? Why!?!"  Yes, I like Sally Field.  I really like her.
Verdict:  Should you watch From a Place of Darkness?  Eh.  I've never been so ambivalent about a horror movie before.  It's not bad.  Then again, it's not all that good.  I didn't fall asleep...  How's that for a recommendation?

My Rating:  2 out of 5


  1. Very well said, and well written. I'll be sure to check back.

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  2. Thanks for the comment and the blog recommendation (I visited and am now a follower). It's funny...I watched The Mothman Prophecies with my son when he was 12 or so. He ended up sitting in my chair with me, bravado gone and in need of dad's protection. I remind him of that when he gets too big for his britches.