from black | thomas marchese | jessub flower | anna camp | john ales | jennifer lafleur | ritual | demon | drug | united states | travis hammer | eduardo campirano | ritchie montgomery | kenneth ford | alicia s mason | ian casselberry | nicholas marchan | aerial nicole
Film: From Black
Director: Thomas Marchese
Writers: Jessub Flower and Thomas Marchese
Starring: Anna Camp, John Ales and Jennifer Lafleur
This was a movie that I found on Shudder. It went on my list of ones to check out since I saw it was a 2023 release. I wasn’t sure if I could make it to the theater due to a busy weekend. Having a movie like this ready to go when I needed a new release is helpful. All I knew coming in was that this featured Anna Camp, who I know from the Pitch Perfect movies. Other than that, I was blind. I’ve also given it a rewatch to see where I landed with it.
Synopsis: a recovering drug addict, desperate for closure and saddled by crushing guilt after the disappearance of her young son, is presented with a bizarre offer to learn the truth about what happened and set things right – if she is willing to a terrifying price.
Where we start here is getting a lay of the land. We see that this is a rural community that is right near deep woods and nature. Our main character is Cora (Camp). She is the recovering addict in the synopsis. This movie starts though with her older sister, Bray (Jennifer Lafleur). She is a police officer and goes into their childhood home. What she finds is salt on the floor as well as a lot of blood. Cora is covered in it when she goes to the police station.
This movie isn’t told linear, I should say that here. We go into the past to see Cora hanging out with Wyatt (Travis Hammer). Later, we hear her blame him for getting her hooked-on heroin. There’s a knock at the door and it is a wellness check being done by Cora’s sister. They’re looking for Cora’s son, Noah (Eduardo Campirano). He’s missing and presumed dead.
Having lost him, Cora is destroyed. She doesn’t care much about living. A perk though is that it has gotten her clean. She is also staying away from Wyatt for the most part. Cora goes to a support group that is led by Abel (John Ales). We learn that he lost his daughter to a drowning accident. Cora normally doesn’t share, but we see the day that she does. It is at the end of the meeting when everyone is leaving. She opens up about what happened and how she feels about it. This date is significant due to it being his birthday or the anniversary of his disappearance.
This leads to Abel coming around and offering her a chance to see her son. She doesn’t believe him and thinks it is like a séance. It intrigues her though. There is a ritual that is difficult. If done properly, she will get her son back. He claims that his daughter is alive. He hasn’t seen her though. Cora has a decision to make and one that could change the lives of all those around her in the process. I should also point out; Bray is struggling with her inability to help her nephew as well.
That is where I'll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I want to start is that reminded me of a couple movies, just mashed together. One would be A Dark Song. The ritual that is performed isn't an easy one and there are certain things that need to be done for it to work. Cora, having lost her son like she did also drew a parallel. Not the same, but in a similar vein. There is a decision that was made that brought the Hellraiser remake to mind. This is on a most basic level with that though as it happens in other films. A bit of Resolution as well.
Now that I've given my opening thoughts, I want to delve more into the aspects that I've correlated to other things. I think the character of Cora is where I'll go. Like the synopsis said, she feels guilty. She was high and passed out when Noah disappeared. She hasn't forgiven herself. I'd bet that she never will either. Suicide is something that she could finally succumb to cope with. I think that Camp's performance is great. She feels like this character. She can convey everything that is needed here. What I like as well is that she puts blame on Wyatt. Her sister does as well. I know part of this is that by staying away from him, Cora could get clean. It isn't his fault that she started using it. He is still a bad influence.
Let me then go to the ritual. I like that in the beginning, Abel seems like a good guy. He is running this group. We think to help people. That isn't necessarily the case. It is part of it though. There are just other factors around it. With the ritual itself, part of Cora wants to believe. She is skeptical though. Bringing back up the movie A Dark Song, I love that this ritual isn't easy. It takes time and Cora is pushed to her limits if she wants her son back. Now with movies like this, there is always the idea that it could just be in the character's head. This isn't the case. We see the entity. You could read it that way though.
This entity is I believe is credited as The Seeker (Kenneth Ford). The makeup and look is great. It is creepy. The appearance of this is also delayed and not until later in the ritual that can he speak with Cora. There is perversion as well. If this entity appears to her early, then she probably doesn't start or stop. It waits until she's committed enough and is at the point of no return. I can also see this as an allegory for drug use, which having Cora as a recovering addict draws a parallel there. This is my favorite aspect of the movie and it works.
Since I've gone into the performance of Camp, let me go over the rest of the actors. Ales is solid as this guy that looks disarming. We think he has the best intentions, but that might not be the case. Lafleur is also good as the sister. She harbors her own form of guilt with what happened to Noah. She is also trying to make things right which adds an element. Hammer is solid as this addict. He has good rants that he goes on. It is funny to see him checked by Bray. Campirano, Ritchie Montgomery, Ford and the rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed.
All that is left then is filmmaking. Let me start with the cinematography. This is shot well. I like what they do with framing. They use the whole screen, which is good. It kept me attentive. I'd also say that the effects are good. There is CGI that is used. I didn't have any major issues there. The soundtrack and design of this is also good. It made me uncomfortable and raised the tension which works for me. If I do have an issue it comes with the pacing. This isn't told in a linear way. We see the beginning of the ending first and we jump into the past to see what got us there. With how it is told, we jump back and forth without much sign. That isn't a bad thing necessarily. The only issue I have is that the movie builds and the resolution we received didn't land fully. It is good. It just felt generic. There is good heart still.
In conclusion, this is a film that I'm not hearing much buzz about but is worth a watch. This explores interesting concepts like loss, drug use and how far you will go to get someone back that you love. I think that the acting is good across the board. Camp impressed me here to be honest. This is well-made with cinematography and sound design. If there is an issue, it does use a bit too much CGI and doesn't necessarily stick the landing. I still enjoyed my time here.
My Rating: 7.5 out of 10