I've always found religious nuts to be despicable. You know, the kind of assholes who try to force their religious views on others. The same guys who go around bombing abortion clinics and ranting about how they think homosexuality is an abomination. Those guys. Maybe it's just common sense, or maybe it's just the liberal in me, but I hate those guys.
Small rant out of the way, it's not the least surprising that these kinds of psychopaths are common in horror. I sometimes wonder if Stephen King would have a career without them. A more recent film that looks at this phenomenon is Phedon Papamichael's 2008 tale "From Within."
In a small Maryland town, there has been an outbreak in teen suicides that spreads after one person sees said suicide. A young teen named Lindsay (Elizabeth Rice) thinks that their is a connection between this and a wiccan teen named Aidan (Thomas Dekker), who also the brother of the tormented kid who offed himself before all of these shenanigans took place. Meanwhile, the Bible-Thumping townsfolk have decided to take matters into their own hands.
"From Within" those have some strengths going for it. Some of the performances are quite strong, with Rice and Dekker making for likable leads. Adam Goldberg steals the show however, clearly having the time of his life playing against type as the psychopathic redneck Roy. There's also a nice aura of mystery to the proceedings, not to mention a great downbeat ending that put a smile on my face.
That out of the way, the film ends up feeling like a missed opportunity. For one thing, there isn't a whole lot that's scary here. Instead of doing something with it's intriguing premise, the movie ends up mining from cliches found in many a late 90's/early to mid 00's Japanese horror flicks that you've seen done a thousand times before. Also, while I'm all for seeing religious nuts being portrayed in a negative light, there isn't a thing that differentiates them from any other group of religious nuts you've seen done a thousand times before in flicks like this. At least pretend to give them some characterization beyond "Damn the sinners!" tropes. Other horror movies have dealt with such issues before in a much more intelligent manner. This one offers nothing new to the table.
The biggest flaw though, is the fact that so many of the characters in this movie behave unrealistically. There's no sense of panic in the townspeople, and this is a town with an epidemic of suicides. They instead turn to going after witches, and even have themselves a little witch hunt, all while shrugging off said suicides. There's no believable motivation to their actions, and it's annoying as hell (pun intended.)
It's a shame really, as "From Within" is a movie that has plenty of potential. It just squanders it with an over-reliance on cliches and a general lack of urgency. Kinda sad really, as I didn't hate it at all. I was just left thinking "That was it? That could have been so much better."