HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A CRY FROM WITHIN -- DVD Review by Porfle

Purportedly based on real-life events experienced by star, writer, and co-director Deborah Twiss, A CRY FROM WITHIN, aka "Sebastien" (2014) renders its fairly standard haunted-house chills with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Twiss, whom you may recognize as the sexy fantasy teacher at the beginning of KICK-ASS, plays Cecile, a happily-married mother of two who tires of both her thankless advertising job (she aspires to be a writer) and the grind of big city life. After a heartbreaking miscarriage, she, her therapist husband Jonathan (Eric Roberts), and their kids Morgan and Ariel (Matthew and Sydney McCann) move into a big, comfy old house out in the country.

Naturally, they'll soon discover the place is infested with bad vibes, not only from former tenants Alice (Cathy Moriarty) and her elderly, invalid mother for whom Alice has resentfully given up her life to tend, but also a creepy ghostly presence that makes itself known first to impressionable little Ariel (through a doll which seems to whisper to her) and then to the rest of the family during a series of nightmarish nocturnal encounters.

The film is directed in a loose style that gives it an almost stream-of-consciousness feeling at times, although occasionally this also tends to make it look a bit slapdash. Some of the editing seems rather
disjointed as well, particularly in the final scenes. This isn't a major problem, though, as the film looks fairly good overall.

Some of A CRY FROM WITHIN, in fact, is spookily atmospheric, especially during the first half when the unknown presence inside the house begins to manifest itself in decidedly creepy ways. Although Twiss and co-director Zach Miller don't lean heavily on jump scares, there's a nifty one which takes place in the house's dark basement that gave me quite a jolt.

For much of the story, however, the film builds its atmosphere of unease using mood, suspense, and some welcome restraint where other filmmakers might have slathered on a bunch of noisy CGI nonsense.

The acting is a bit uneven at times, with Twiss a likable lead and the venerable Cathy Moriarty (RAGING BULL) reveling in her unglamorous role as the deeply troubled Alice. James McCaffrey plays local priest Father Thomas, who shares a dark secret with Alice that may actually be the basis for the hauntings. As Doc Williams, a snowy-haired Robert Vaughn appears just long enough to look good in the trailers. Performances of the juvenile leads are okay but not as consistent as they might've been with a more experienced director.

As Jonathan, the always wonderful Eric Roberts (THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE, RUNAWAY TRAIN, THE DARK KNIGHT) is so sleepily sweet-tempered and laidback that his character seems to be on a perpetual morphine drip. Not that he's not into his role--in fact, he gives the impression that he'd love to move in with his new screen family and be their forever Dad.

The DVD from Breaking Glass is in widescreen and stereo. No subtitles, but closed-captions are available for us H-O-H viewers. While the box promises cast interviews and deleted scenes as extras, the disc I received featured only a photo gallery and trailers for this and other Breaking Glass releases. The film will also be available on the following VOD platforms: iTunes, All Cable Providers, Amazon Instant, Blockbuster, Google Play, Xbox, and Playstation.

After a promising start and some satisfying scares along the way, A CRY FROM WITHIN stages a finale that tries for a big emotional payoff but goes off the rails a bit in the execution. Still, I found it a worthy enough effort overall and, with its lack of graphic gore and needless pyrotechnics, a welcome throwback to some of the more subtle chillers of the 70s and 80s.

Buy it at


No comments: