From Black Is One of Shudder’s Best Original Films

Image provided by AMC Networks

I was really excited to see From Black. I’m a huge fan of occult and supernatural horror, and the trailer featured the almost unbeatable one-two punch of creepy imagery and dread-soaked atmosphere. It looked like this film would be right up my alley, so I couldn’t wait to check it out. And now, after finally getting the chance to see it, I’m happy to report that it totally lived up to my expectations.

From Black was directed and co-written by Thomas Marchese, and it stars Anna Camp, Jennifer Lafleur, John Ales, Travis Hammer, and Richie Montgomery. It’s about a woman named Cora whose son went missing several years ago, and after joining a grief support group, she receives an offer she can’t refuse.

One of the members of the support group says he actually got his kid back from the dead, and he tells Cora that she can too if she performs an ancient occult ritual. At first, Cora thinks this guy is crazy, but her desire to see her son again gets the best of her. She agrees to give the ritual a shot, and when she does, she conjures up a demon that gives her a lot more than she bargained for.

Admittedly, if you’re a hardcore horror fan, that might sound a bit familiar or even cliched. It’s very reminiscent of films like Anything for Jackson, Hereditary, and A Dark Song, so you’d be forgiven for thinking this was just a cheap rip-off of those movies. But let me tell you, From Black is anything but cheap. Sure, we’ve seen this kind of story a million times before, but as with many great films, the execution more than makes up for the unoriginal plot.

For starters, the acting in this movie is phenomenal. Everybody in it does a great job making their characters feel completely real, so I never felt like I was just watching actors reciting lines. Even the side characters are played really well, so I believed every second of this film. However, hands down, the best performance in From Black comes from Anna Camp, who plays Cora. She’s asked to convey a wide range of emotions, from grief to terror to hopeful expectation, and she completely nails every single one of them.

A demon in a circle
Image provided by AMC Networks

But above all else, she does an amazing job of playing a grief-stricken mother whose whole world has come crashing down, and I’d even say her portrayal of grief is about on par with Toni Collete’s in Hereditary and Rebecca Hall’s in The Night House. You can just feel the misery and hopelessness dripping from every word she says and every move she makes, so you can’t help but sympathize with Cora and understand her decisions, no matter how ill-fated they may be.

On top of great performances, From Black also has an excellent story structure. Almost the entire film is told in a series of flashbacks recounted by Cora in a police station, and every once in a while, it’ll cut away from the main story and go back to Cora and the cop she’s talking to.

Admittedly, that’s a bit of a risky decision, as the cutaways to the police station could kill the plot’s momentum, but thankfully, that never happens. In fact, every time the movie cuts back to the present, it increases your anticipation for what’s coming next, so it actually builds more momentum and keeps your eyes glued to the screen in a way a more straightforward narrative structure never could.

Last but not least, let’s talk about the horror in From Black. It’s a bit of a slow burn, so the first hour or so doesn’t have too much explicit horror. Sure, it has a few hints here and there of the terrors to come, but by and large, this part of the film focuses more on the characters and the story. But in the last half hour, it becomes pretty much all horror all the time, and it’s fantastic. The movie makes you feel like you’re right there with Cora and the guy guiding her through the ritual, so whenever they experience anything horrific, you experience it in a similarly frightening way.

A man looking distressed
Image provided by AMC Networks

Then, when the demon comes on screen, the film gets even better. This monster is creepy as hell, and I’m not just talking about the way he looks (although that’s definitely part of it!). The way he talks is also pretty bone-chilling. In fact, he reminded me a lot of Black Phillip at the end of The Witch, but I think he’s even better. The combination of creepy voice and terrifying appearance makes for genuine nightmare fuel, so I’m definitely not going to forget this character any time soon.

All that being said, I do have to admit that From Black isn’t perfect. I don’t have any major criticisms of the movie, but one minor problem stood out to me a bit. There’s a plot point towards the end that I found really predictable, but one of the characters acted like it was a huge surprise that came out of nowhere.

Now, my problem isn’t that I saw this story beat coming a mile away. It feels like a natural, almost necessary part of the narrative, and for me, that far outweighs its predictability. My problem is how that one character reacted to it. Their surprise at this super obvious development made me roll my eyes, and that took me out of the movie a little bit.

However, in the grand scheme of things, that’s a very minor complaint, so on the whole, I’m happy to say I had a great time with From Black. It features fantastic characters driven by fantastic performances, an excellent story structure that squeezes every ounce of tension and suspense it can from the movie’s fairly simple plot, and some really amazing horror. It’s one of the best Shudder originals I’ve seen in a while, so if you’re looking for something good to watch, I highly, highly recommend checking this film out.

From Black hits Shudder and AMC+ on April 28.

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  1. The trailer looks awesome and the Demon is the reason I’m having a watch party. This definitely has a different feel to it compared to recently watched horror films. The cast is a mix of known and up and coming talent. Have they said who is playing the “Demon”? The physical movement as well as the discipline to the make-up process seems on point. We’re very excited especially with reviews of a Demon with a voice that matches the visual effects.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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