Review: From Black

Written and directed by Thomas Marchese, co-written by Jessub Flower, 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 pay a terrifying price. Starring: Anna Camp, John Ales, Jennifer Lafleur, Travis Hammer, Ritchie Montgomery and Eduardo Campirano.

Many a horror film has been made about the lengths any parent would go to, to get back a lost child from Pet Sematary to Mother! to Don’t Look Now, and for good reason because there’s very little they wouldn’t do. From Black re-animates that classic plot with a supernatural and satanic edge, making that familiar territory feel new again. Granted, there may not be too many surprises in store but with a film like this, it’s less about adding fresh twists and more about how you tell it and the atmosphere you build. Thomas Marchese and Jessub Flower do a good job of creating tension, fear and relatable characters.

One of the great choices that they made was to add in a criminal element. Using a back and forth timeline to mix Cora’s (Anna Camp) endeavour with her detective sister Bray’s (Jennifer Lafleur) investigation after the fact. Again, throwing the linear way out the window is not new but it’s used well and it does add a captivating pacing to the story. Although at times it can still feel somewhat slow which is partially due to the progression, as it’s not as effective as the pacing. There are places where it would have been satisfying to dig deeper or add in additional detail. Particularly when it comes to John Ales’s Abel, fleshing out his character could have improved his presence since he does have a big part to play. As well as leaving itself with an ending that hits a decent note but not a strong enough one to end things on a resounding moment.

While initially it sounds somewhat odd to have Anna Camp playing an ex-junkie, being most commonly found in perky and uber confident roles but she brings a relatable feel to Cora. A lot of that is due to the way she evolves Cora’s perspective, being so sceptical then slowly drawn into this mysterious ritual. Lafleur’s detective has plenty to add, it’s only a shame she doesn’t get more involved, with both her gut and protective instincts. All of which is wrapped up in a great visual style, it’s nicely dark, has a good tension and is close but varied in its shots. As well as keeping to a minimal use of effects which are surprisingly well done.

From Black visits familiar territory but brings its own spin, refreshing a tale of lost children and desperate parents. Anna Camp leads the way well and it makes you wonder how she would have fared as a final girl in her earlier acting years, it’s a shame we didn’t get to see that. Thomas Marchese’s directorial style is exactly what the story called for, and his writing style alongside Jessub Flower manages to create an engrossing atmosphere. Its only downfall is that it needed to expand the story a touch further to let it hit a harder, more satisfying note before the credits rolled.

Verdict: ✯✯✯½ | 7/10

Available now on Shudder

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