Teen goth Natalie (Rumer Willis) is enjoying a romantic stolen moment in the woods with her boyfriend, Sean (Shiloh Fernandez). He's reading poetry from a book, sweetly kissing her, then… blowing his brains out with a handgun he'd had hidden. Taken completely by surprise and duly horrified, Natalie flees the scene. She runs, gasping in terror, to the center of her idyllic hometown, Grovestown — a place that prides itself on being the heart of wellbeing, family and Christian values. Screaming that she's been followed, Natalie begs the first people she sees to hide her, which they do. The moment they turn their backs, Natalie suddenly kills herself.
Sean and Natalie's deaths are dismissed as a lovers' suicide pact, but doe-eyed teenager Lindsay (ethereal Elizabeth Rice) isn't convinced. After all, she was supposed to be watching Natalie when the seemingly frightened for her life girl killed herself. Both young ladies were in the clothing store Natalie's dad owned, and shortly after the incident he hung himself there… but the evil is not solely contained to that unfortunate family.
When others start to die, Lindsay's devout boyfriend Dylan (brusque Kelly Blatz) blames Sean's wiccan brother, Aidan (smoldering Ian Somerhalder lookalike, Thomas Dekker), and makes his claim known by beating him up publically after school. In his own righteous response, Dylan's dad, Pastor Joe (intense and abrasive Steven Culp), gives a brash sermon to his flock — but fears are hardly allayed when even more Grovestowners die by their own hand.
From Within is shown from Lindsay's perspective. She's just a naive small-town student stuck in a gloomy house with her reformed ex-con dad (grotty Adam Goldberg) and his pious yet alcoholic girlfriend (blowsy Laura Allen), but Lindsay is unusually empathetic and open-minded. When she dares go to the outskirts of town to visit Aidan — now alone after his brother's suicide, and his single mother's death a year before — Lindsay's outreach raises more than a few hackles. The religious right, led by Dylan and Pastor Joe, try to quell her curiosity, but no one can deny that the wickedness residing in Grovestown is more than a few Bible-thumps can handle.
While mostly a character-driven psychological emo-thriller, From Within also has some pretty spooky, supernatural scenes in which doppelgangers shadow… themselves… just before moments of painful and gruesome white-knuckle death scenes. The 'evil-twin' creatures are mostly scary-looking, but unfortunately they are, at times, overly augmented by too much makeup and CGI.
Reasonably suspenseful and kinked with twists and turns, DP-turned-director Phedon Papamichael (he lensed 3:10 to Yuma) works well with his screenwriter (Brad Keene, who also wrote one of the 8 Films to Die For's previous best, The Gravedancers) and editor Michael Matzdorff (who comes mostly from a TV comedy background). But surprisingly, the cinematography (by first-timer Rafael E. Sánchez) is pretty lackluster.
When all is said and done, From Within is a decent timewaster for horror fans with heathen taste.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson