From the Shadows

09/29/2023 07:56

Film: From the Shadows

Year: 2023

Director: Mike Sargent

Writer: Michael Kuciak

Starring: Keith David, Bruce Davison and Selena Anduze



This was a screener that was sent over to me via Scott from Keith Sherman & Associates. I saw that this was a 2023 release and in the horror genre, so I was intrigued to check this out. It helped as well that this starred Keith David and Bruce Davison. Both are actors that I like and have seen quite a bit. Other than that, I came into this one blind to not influence my thoughts.

Synopsis: when Dr. Joseph Cawl (Davison) and members of his Hidden Wisdom cult die in a mysterious fire, survivors contact a paranormal expert to find the truth. What they discover makes them the next target of a deranged killer.

We start this watching a livestream by someone called ‘Bar-Hunter’. It appears they get drunk and then do a show. This one we are seeing is different. He captures an explosion in the distance. He’s then attacked by what looks to be a shadow with glowing eyes. It disappears. The movie then gives us backstory about Dr. Joseph Cawl, the cult he’s the head of called the Hidden Wisdom, his fall out with a colleague called Dr. Leonard Bertram (David) and this is all done through what looks to be a documentary on A&E or the Discovery Channel.

For what we’re getting here, Dr. Amara Rowan (Selena Anduze) is going to do a documentary about the cult and its survivors. She is a good person to take this on as she has won awards. Her mother was also a member of a reincarnation cult so she has interesting insight. She is working with Peter (Jim Thalman) who set up the call with the survivors. He’s also the technology guy who works with the camera. He’s in the same room as Dr. Rowan to ensure everything runs smooth.

They’re using an online call and this becomes a desktop filmed movie for these characters. The call starts with Denise (Ester Tania), Keith (Max MacKenzie), Henry (Ian Whitt) and Tina (Clarie Mack). They were all at Dr. Cawl’s house the night of the tragedy. For different reasons, they escaped. They tell their history with Dr. Cawl and how they came to be part of this group through the interview with Amara. As the night goes on, Zoe (Briana Femia) also joins the call. She was the right hand to Dr. Cawl after his fallout with Dr. Bertram. She helped to assemble this group for the experiments and helped these other cult members overcome different things.

The movie then fills in more about Hidden Wisdom, how they came to be and what they were trying to do. The former members are nervous though. They believe something is after them. We see these shadow people outside of Amara and Peter’s location. They also come after the interviewees. The goal for Amara is to clear their name as they’re the prime suspects to starting the fire that killed the rest. As things go on, Amara might be the only one who can save them.

That is where I’ll leave my recap and introduction to the characters. Where I’ll start is that I love the back-story here. Anything with a cult ticks my boxes. I love that this incorporates true aspects of history. Dr. Cawl believes that certain individuals have special powers. All the cult members who survived have different things. Keith experiences night terrors. Tina has another variation where she’s seen shadow people since she was a child. Henry has crippling anxiety that prevents him from making decisions. A character during this brings up that they’re ‘mutants’. Its ironic that Davison was the evil senator in X-Men who was against the people who were different. Here he embraces them. What we have here though is explaining that certain mental illnesses might be due to power within these people that when they aren’t harnessed, create problems in their normal, everyday lives. This makes me think of something like Scanners as well.

Where I want to then shift is with the idea of the shadow people. This is an entity that I think I’ve heard about in passing while growing up. There was an episode of podcast, Black Cat’s Shadow, that did an episode on them. They’ve been used in movies like Come True. This tries to explain them a bit. I like that they say that these creatures go as far back as the Egyptians. The belief there was that the soul was divided into parts with the shadow being the Shuyat. They believed the shadow people were this part of the soul of the deceased who now haunt. There could be another explanation that gets brought up later. This one with the Choctaw. Their version is called Impa Shilu and are soul eaters. Regardless of the explanation, I like that we’re getting lore here. That along with potentially explaining why ancient civilizations were destroyed abruptly. This cult could be trying to stop that.

Now I do have to shift to a negative, I do think this was a bit too slow. It is dialogue heavy. Since this is mostly a desktop filmed movie, we have Amara talking to the group. Spooky things are happening to them, but that doesn’t happen until late. I did like the editing of footage from commercials that Dr. Cawl made or seeing a security video where he is talking to Dr. Bertram. That was good to fill in the back-story. The problem is that the story in the present is lacking to me. This is backloaded with action and I lost interest there unfortunately.

I’ll then stick with filmmaking. This looks good. I wouldn’t say the cinematography and look of the footage is Hollywood. It is saved by going the ‘found footage’ route with seeing the desktop camera footage. There is cinematic shots added in as well. The hybrid style works in the framework for me as it isn’t presented one way or the other. Moving to the effects, they go CGI heavy here. They don’t look great and that took me out of it. I understand they aren’t working with a large budget. Even though I like the look of the shadow people, I could see seams there. They also used a lot of smoke and it doesn’t hold up. Other than that, the soundtrack was fine for what was used.

Let me then end this out with the acting. Again, we are working with actors here for the most part who are amateur and haven’t done a lot. David and Davison are top billed to get people to watch this. I’d say they aren’t much than cameos here. How they’re used though is good. Anduze is fine as our lead. I like how she factors into the climax and resolution. Tania, MacKenzie, Thalman and Femia are solid. No issues there. There were times with Whitt and Mack where their performance required a bit more emotion and it came off flat. Not enough to ruin this, but I noticed that is all. I would be interested in seeing these younger cast members in more going forward to see how they grow.

In conclusion, this one has goodwill built up with the back-story and the lore used. I love taking things from history and incorporating them like we got here. Using shadow people as our entity was good as well. This is made well enough. The hybrid style of cinematic and desktop filming was solid. There were solid performances here and a couple that came up flat a couple of times. None of that was a major issue though. The CGI didn’t necessarily work for me though. Not a bad movie. I’d recommend it to those that like these lower budget, independent films. If not, I’d avoid this as it won’t be for you.


My Rating: 6 out of 10