So far I've seen only two of After Dark's "8 FIlms to Die For," DYING BREED and FROM WITHIN. Although neither one is truly outstanding, both had their strenghts and weaknesses. Of the two, FROM WITHIN is preferable; it shows a bit more imagination in its conception, offering something more than just another psycho-cannibal-slaughter-fest. When I attended the promotional autograph signing by some of the filmmakers at Dark Delicacies bookstore in Burbank this afternoon, I heard some complaints about the sound and audio quality at the Beverly Center, one of the few theatres in Los Angeles screening the After Dark Horrofest. Fortunately, I saw the films at the Mann Plant 16 in Van Nuys, which is a much newer facility - clean and well kept. FROM WITHIN looked slightly drab, which would have made me suspect the theatre was shaving costs by cutting back on the juice to the projector bulb, but DYING BREED looked great. If you intend to check out any of the horrorfest, you might want to avoid the Beverly Center and head out to Van Nuys, if at all possible.
The third After Dark Horrorfest (which bills itself as “8 Films to Die For”) gets off to a shaky start with yet another depiction of what can go wrong if you go wandering through the wilds of Australia. In this case, the setting is the island of Tasmania rather than the outback, but after WOLF CREEK and STORM WARNING, any city folk stupid enough to wander this far off the track deserve whatever they get - and boy, do they get it. Following in the tradition of the previous Australian outback horror films, DYING BREED takes its time to get to the gore, spending its first half introducing the characters and getting them to their destination. The exposition is nicely handled, often through flashbacks, and the performances and the writing are not bad, but they are somewhat blunted by the fact that we know we are simply seeing lambs being led to the slaughter.
The story follows an old tradition that dates back at least to Lovecraft: inbred rural cannibals threatening those who wander onto their turf. This rather condescending view of provincial life is balanced by the characterizations: one of the city-folk is a hot-headed, angry bastard, and at least a couple of the locals have some sympathetic attributes.
Unfortunately, the script is not smart enough to work these potential complexities into a dramatically satisfying conclusion, instead opting for a cheap twist ending that leaves too many questions unanswered, such as: Are there really enough unsuspecting travellers wandering off the beaten path to fill all those pies that fuel the local economy? And: if the town has almost no women (a point made in the dialogue) and propagates itself through the forced breeding of outside females, can the local populace really be considered inbred?
Read the whole thing here.
The second of “8 Films to Die For” in the 2009 edition of the After Dark Horrorfest is an improvement over DYING BREED. Although FROM WITHIN lacks DYING’S technical polish (the cinematography, for example is relatively drab, suggesting the low-budget origins), at least FROM WITHIN has an interesting premise from which the screenplay builds a reasonably intriguing supernatural mystery. The resulting horror is relatively tame for an R-rated film; the emphasis is more on a spooky sense of dread, punctuated by occasional bursts of violence and flashes of gore (the later usually seen in terms of the aftermath, not the actual perpetration). Hard-core horror hounds may be disappointed, but those with a taste for more traditional horror will find a few enjoyable moments before the film runs out of gas and resorts to a predictable twist ending.
FROM WITHIN feels like a conflation of THE HAPPENING and TWILIGHT. In the grand tradition of low-budget exploitation, FROM WITHIN dares to go in directions that glossy mainstream films would fear to tread, and it deserves some recognition for this, even if it eventually loses its way.
With its isolated town suffering under a supernatural curse that kills people in the form of suicide, FROM WITHIN bears some similarities to Mario Bava’s Gothic horror effort KILL, BABY KILL (Operazione Paura, 1968). The Bava connection is emphasized in an early sequence set in a dress show, where mannequins haunt the shadows like ghosts waiting to strike, while lights being turned on and off hide the approach of the real threat.
Read the whole thing here.