From Black (2023) Movie Review – A grief-fuelled horror that might resonate with some

A grief-fuelled horror that might resonate with some

Grief can be all-consuming and hard to overcome, as many of us can testify. The loss of a loved one is a terrible thing and for a lot of people, feelings of sorrow, guilt and regret soon follow.

Over the years, many filmmakers within the horror genre have explored the subject of grief within their storytelling. In a lot of these movies, the protagonists, struggling to get over the deaths of their closest family members, have taken reckless steps to bring their loved ones back.

The 1989 and 2019 adaptations of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary focused on a grieving father named Louis Creed who, despite his neighbour’s assertion that “dead is better,” buried his child in an ancient burial ground that had the power to bring his kid back to life.

The 2016 movies, The Other Side Of The Door and A Dark Song, both centred on mothers who tried to reconnect with their deceased children through demonic rituals that opened up gateways to the darker side of the afterlife.

And in From Black, a chilling new horror tale from director Thomas Marchese, another mother stricken with guilt and grief attempts to bring back her child through a ritual that deceptively promises a happy ending.

The mother in this story is Cora (Anna Camp), a recovering addict who is grieving the loss of her son Noah, who disappeared seven years previously. We don’t know if the boy is dead or alive and neither does Cora – he vanished while she was strung out on drugs – but during a flashback to a police investigation into his disappearance, there is the assumption that something terrible must have happened to him.

Cora is now a shell of a woman, living with feelings of hopelessness and regret, but in an attempt to find some relief from her pain, she attends a support group where she meets other grieving parents. One of these is Abel (John Ales), the group’s leader, who takes a vested interest in Cora when he hears her sad story. At first, it can be assumed that he is just like any of the other heartbroken people that attend his sessions. But when he befriends this suffering woman and shares his story with her, both she and we discover something surprising – his once-dead daughter is miraculously alive!

When Abel tells Cora that she may be able to see Noah again, she is initially unbelieving of what he is saying to her. But as dead is definitely not better for this grieving mom, she eventually starts to open herself up to the possibility that Abel could be telling her the truth.

The key to bringing Noah back is a ritual which is reliant on all the usual ceremonial tropes, such as chalk circles, ritualistic symbols, and a sacrificial goat! During the ritual, which takes place over several days, Cora has visions of her son and learns of his terrible fate. She also becomes entranced by a dark force that at one point causes her to levitate.

Does Noah come back from the dead? We aren’t going to reveal the movie’s ending here but you won’t be surprised to learn that Cora’s meddling with the afterlife has some very dark consequences.

From Black does tell a familiar story but it’s one that could hold your interest if you can make it through the slow-paced first half which is surprisingly short on scares. After the ominous opening, with its thundering, portentous music score that is suitably sinister, the movie doesn’t do a lot to engage. Cora’s story is undeniably a sad one and it’s easy to relate to her suffering but as the flashback-heavy structure is rather confusing, you might well lose patience with the movie before it gets better.

When the rituals begin, the tension ramps up – as does the menacing soundtrack – and From Black actually becomes quite terrifying. If you have resisted the urge to switch off the movie, you will be rewarded with many unsettling scenes, including one sequence where Abel vomits blood and animal bones that may well turn your stomach. You will also be introduced to a demonic figure that initially lurks in the shadows but who later reveals itself more fully as Cora opens herself up to events that are beyond her control.

Anna Camp gives a convincing performance as the woman grieving the loss of her child and so too does John Ales as the father who will do anything to see his daughter again. Their performances do much to paper over the weaknesses in the story which is jumbled and over-familiar. This isn’t to say the movie is a bad one – it’s nowhere near as awful as some movie critics would have you believe – but despite some very effective scenes of terror, it does have a lot of problems.

For one thing, the story is haphazardly structured, with lots of jumping backwards and forwards in time, which makes it hard for us to know whether we’re in Cora’s past or present. Then there’s the plodding pace of the first half which makes the movie a bit of a chore to watch. We don’t get to know much about Cora or Abel, so while we can relate to their plight, we can’t get fully invested in their characters. And the ending, which is a bit of an anti-climax, might be a source of frustration for some.

Still, I do think From Black is worth seeing. It’s scary at times and the sense of dread is often palpable. Much of the tension comes from the unnerving soundtrack which is definitely the movie’s best feature but the practical effects work that bring to life the movie’s demon is also worthy of mention.

The movie is currently available on Shudder so if you’re a subscriber, there’s no harm in giving From Black a go. It won’t change your life in any major way and it probably won’t give you many nightmares. But you might get some enjoyment from this creepy and occasionally atmospheric tale if you can push through the boring first half and the later scenes of stomach-churning body horror.


Read More: From Black Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 6/10

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