Thursday, September 21, 2023

From the Shadows, Starring Keith David

Dr. Amara Rowan is sort of like an academic Amazing Randi, who specializes in debunking supernaturally-themed cons. Frankly, four survivors of the Hidden Wisdom cult would be thrilled if she could debunk the heck out of the horrors they barely lived through. They have seen some things and Dr. Rowan will see some too in Mike Sargent’s From the Shadows, which opens tomorrow in New York.

Before their falling out, archaeologist Dr. Joseph Cawl launched the Hidden Wisdom cult with his more scientifically-rigorous colleague, Dr. Leonard Bertram. For a while, they promoted it through late night TV commercials, like an average cheesy self-help program, but there was something sinister at its core. Supposedly, Hidden Wisdom and Cawl went the way of Heaven’s Gate and the Branch Davidians when the compound mysteriously went up in flames. However, four very scared cult-members survived and now they want to tell their story to Dr. Rowan, via online conferencing, from undisclosed locations.

Many of the survivors complain of seeing “Shadow People,” whom he audience can often spy moving furtively in corners of their video feeds. Of course, Dr. Rowan and her videographer Peter are skeptical, but they will be convinced when a hooded figure starts attacking the ex-Hidden Wisdomers, one-by-one.

Although Sargent’s budget was obviously severely constrained, he still manages to realize a respectably Lovecraftian vibe. The effects are not great, but the dark, claustrophobic locations help cover for them.

The conviction Selena Anduze brings as Dr. Rowan also makes a big difference. She definitely has above average credibility for a horror movie scientist. Keith David and his Ken Burns-narration voice sound totally Lovecraftian and supply some of the fierce energy the film requires. Bruce Davison hits all the right creepy New Age notes as Cawl, while Jim Thalman supplies a down-to-earth perspective as Peter, a veteran, who went back to school later in life.

As a low-budget overachiever,
From the Shadows deserves a lot of credit. It is moody and often surprisingly tense. The film also reminds us how weirdly under-appreciated David is as a master of horror, following his memorable work in “cult” favorites like, The Thing, The Puppet Masters, Nope, and the Spawn franchise. Better than you expect, From the Shadows is recommended for fans of Lovecraftian horror when it opens tomorrow (9/22) in New York, at the Village East.