‘From the Shadows’ Review: Keith David Stars In New Cosmic Horror

from the shadows

Now this may sound like an overreaction, but believe me when I say that it’s outright CRIMINAL I hadn’t heard anything about this movie anywhere else other than from the creators. Is there a reason for that? Did I wrong you in some way? Were y’all purposely keeping this from me for some reason beyond my comprehension? Or was keeping me in the dark part of some sick pleasure you’ve been enjoying at my expense? Let’s break some basics before we get back on track—Shadow People.

What about them? I don’t know much myself, other than if you dope yourself up on enough Benadryl, you’ll see the Hat Man, apparently. I don’t recommend doing that, mind you, I’m just keeping you in the know. From what I can gather, Shadow People are shadows (shocker) perceived to be alive and kicking, often seen by those in altered states of mind, as well as those living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Of course, that’s not counting the people who fit neither of those categories, yet still have seen these dark silhouettes watching them from corners of rooms across the world.

Some believers say they’re ghosts, taking on a darker form due to being lost on our plane, unable to embrace their spectral state, and not receiving the “light” most spirits receive crossing over. Others claim they’re demons, drawn to dark thoughts, accompanied by feelings of dread and the veneer of never once being human. Then, of course, we have the alien theory, which is that… y’know… they’re aliens. Ultraterrestrials, to be specific, here to observe us for one voyeuristic intention or another, slipping through dimensions under the guise of living shadows. Or maybe they’re time travelers, because why the hell not? The takeaway is no one’s quite sure what they are, with the most accepted explanation being they’re just a side effect of night terrors.

Whatever the case may be, I’m sure we can all agree that Shadow People are—academically speaking—“spooky”, and would make for great antagonists in a horror story. Plenty of filmmakers reached the same conclusion, releasing such flicks as The Shadow People, Shadow People, and… Shadow People.

I guess it’s a catchy enough title, isn’t it? However, the film I was raving about earlier daringly deviates from this trend, choosing to go for something a bit more ominous instead. The title in question, courtesy of Port of Fear Festival, is From the Shadows!

From the Shadows

(Directed by Mike Sargent; Starring Keith David, Bruce Davison, Selena Anduze; 2022)

“When Dr. Joseph Crawl and members of the 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.”

Yes, you read that cast right — KEITH DAVID. I must’ve missed his beginning credit because I was caught off-guard when the screen was graced with his presence. Here’s the thing, though: not only is he in the film, but he plays a MAJOR role as well, and dammit, he brings his A-GAME to the match. This is per the usual, but still, it just hits differently when it’s obvious the actor’s having fun with their character, and that’s certainly the case here. David steals every scene he’s in, every line said with just the right amount of ham and cheese between the sliced breads of dialogue. He’s even able to bloody his hands a time or two in the gore department, which I personally appreciate. If I had to give you ONE reason to check this film out, it’s Keith David. What more can I say? The man’s a treasure!

Alongside David, we also have Bruce Davison of The Lords of Salem fame and Selena Anduze, who has been in everything from Wandavision to Swamp Thing.

Of course, Davison kills it as the charming, enigmatic cult leader tying the threads of the mystery shawl together, but we wouldn’t expect any less from Willard himself. Hell, I wouldn’t know from experience, but I’m sure he’s the sole reason Titanic II is potentially watchable… Don’t expect me to test that theory anytime soon.

The real takeaway is how Anduze performs her role. Her stoic demeanor and seen-it-all/no-nonsense attitude anchor the character in a way that’s familiar, but done very well. She portrays the standard skeptic of the supernatural, believing there’s a rational reason for any perceived paranormal occurrence, and at some points, I thought the filmmakers just hired a professional skeptic to come on set for a few days or something. That’s a testament to her acting talent!

In fact, all of the actors deserve their fair share of praise. I found each of them completely believable at best and serviceable at worst, which is a pretty damn good range considering some of the films I’ve seen. Briana Femia, Jim Thalman, Ester Tania, Max MacKenzie, Claire Mack, Ian Whitt—if you’re an indie filmmaker looking for talent, literally anyone in this film is worth reaching out to.

From the Shadows manages to incorporate something I’ve seen in other movies, but better and combined with a more traditional cinematography setup. That being the use of not-Skype as a method of carrying scenes forward, with most of the cast only shown through webcams, leading to some creative instances of gore and murder through the lens of a video stream. It’s engaging, and I haven’t seen the technique ever done as well as it is here.

Speaking of gore—one of my favorite casual conversation topics—the gore FX in the flick are ON POINT. There’s one in particular I’d love to talk about, but I’d hate to spoil it for you given just how creative it is. I’ll give you some hints, how does that sound? It involves a spooky killer, a slit throat, and Bruce Davison’s voice. You’ll know what scene I’m talking about, trust me. Other than that, you get some knife action with the gruesome results you’d expect, along with a flaying for good measure. Overall, the gorehound barking within me was more than fed by the time the credits rolled. So, if that’s something you look for in a movie, then here’s my endorsement.

Another thing to touch upon is the narrative, which is surprisingly good. There has to be another word to explain it, right? Gooder? Goodest? Listen, I’m saying the story isn’t as basic as it could’ve been. From my research, the whole “shadow people” plot is usually just a ghost story of a different flavor, but From the Shadows takes a Lovecraftian approach to the concept, and does it well. This is a feat, given when other films are labeled “Lovecraftian”, it means they just toss a few tentacles into the mix, along with a “Cthulhu fhtagn” for good measure. That’s it, good enough, slap the seal of Dagon on there and mail it off to R’lyeh.

That’s fine, plenty of films I love only have surface-level cosmic horror, but to really embrace the Lovecraftian, one needs a little more than squids and weird phrases. It’s more of a “power and beings beyond our comprehension, whether or not it has tentacles” kind of deal. Lovecraftian tales are supposed to make us feel small and inconsequential. While humanity in this flick has more agency than usual in these types of stories, it’s only because they’re solving a smaller part of a much bigger problem. In the end, do we even matter? Probably not, but it is what it is.

From the Shadows is a fantastic example of what can be accomplished in the indie horror scene, and I have no idea why it’s not talked about more. Let’s change that by talking about it more from now on, okay? Glad we’re on the same page! With great performances, killer SFX, and clever cinematography, this flick makes for excellent late-night viewing. Preferably under the illumination of a dim light, shrouding the rest of the room in unknowable darkness. Maybe you’ll meet a shadow person for yourself, if only while they sit down to watch with you.

You can watch From the Shadows on Vudu right here! And if you can, drop by this year’s Port of Fear Festival, which is being held on September 13 and 14, 2024! 

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