Judge Gordon Sullivan finds himself without words.
Our review of Within (2008), published September 24th, 2010, is also available.
You don't know what you're capable of…
We here at Verdict come from all walks of life. We're teachers, lawyers, accountants, and students. It shouldn't be too surprising then that one of our number is also a filmmaker, and the DVD under review has been directed by none other than Cinema Verdict's own Marco Duran. I mention this at the outset so prospective readers know that Marco is getting the same fair treatment from us as any independent filmmaker.
Few independent films take their cues from myth and fairy tales. Because the market place puts a premium on fast pacing, loads of low budget effects, and excessive violence, independent films are often found in the horror and crime genres, genres not known for their ambiguity or allegory. Ironically, Within belongs to both the crime and horror genres (as well as the psychological thriller), but rather than following the lead of more blood-soaked and relentless cousins the film opts for a slower, more thoughtful brand of horror. This change of pace will probably appeal to indie fans, and the solid DVD presentation doesn't hurt.
Within is the story of Peter Stubbe (Anthony Rutowicz), a young man with a dark past who doesn't quite have the courage to get the girl or avoid being bullied. One day he meets a mysterious stranger who offers him a box containing "magic." This magic promises to help Peter if he will only use it. Peter does, and that very evening he has a dream where he turns into a creature that devours his most recent bully. But maybe it wasn't a dream. Thanks to his ability to receive random premonitions, Peter stops a robbery in progress and befriends the gentlemen whose stuff he saved. This leads him to a group of drug dealers and partiers, where Peter finds out what's inside him. Although his new-found confidence helps him get the girl, it might also have a terrible price.
At its core, Within is a werewolf movie. After getting some mojo, Peter turns into a monster who can defeat the bad guy but who also has to struggle with controlling his new found power. What sets Within apart is the fact that it doesn't play like a typical werewolf movie. We see the effects of Peter's apparent rampages (dead bodies and blood all over Peter), but never his transformation or much of the violence. Keeping this aspect of the film ambiguous puts it in the realm of fairy tale or allegory. The film reminds me in many ways of the ambiguous-vampire film Habit, in that both films deal with a psychologically damaged guy trying to find love while possibly engaged in monsterdom. Because of this ambiguity, the film can deal with the monsters that live inside us all without getting heavy-handed with the message.
The film also benefits from a solid DVD presentation. The video transfer is bright and clear, free of any serious compression artifacts or authoring problems. The Dolby sound keeps dialogue audible and well-balanced with the film's excellent use of music. Extras include a commentary with Duran, Rutowicz, and Rebecka Duran. The trio dish on the genesis of the projects, the usual trials of indie filmmaking, and a number of funny anecdotes about the production. We're also treated to some interesting deleted/extended as well as bloopers, and the disc rounds out with the film's trailer.
Within requires some tolerance for independent, low-budget filmmaking. The acting is all over the map, from a pretty solid performance by Rutowicz to some slightly more over-the-top from some of the other actors. Although the film is definitely inspired by werewolf mythology and has a number of genre trappings, it's not a traditional horror film as most fans understand it these days. There's no serious gore or violence that we see on-screen, and this is not a quick-paced scarefest. That latter point might turn some folks off. Within is almost two hours long, and it asks a lot of the audience by sticking with one ambiguous character for that long. Even fans of the film might think it could stand to lose 20 minutes to bring the pace up. Those who stick it out will find a pitch-perfect ending, but the getting there will take some commitment.
Within shows some serious potential from first-time filmmaker Marco Duran (especially in the film's use of music, which is masterful). The Court genuinely hopes more of Mr. Duran's films come up for judgment in the future. As for the DVD in question, it's a solid piece of independent genre filmmaking that provides enough of what fans are looking for along with some pleasant surprises. Sure the running time and slower pace might work against it, but the change of pace might be just what genre fans need in the middle of a triple feature.
Within has its rocky moments, but overall its not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Portrait Pictures
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