Epix Studios, 2022-
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Suspenseful and intense thrillers
Movies and TV shows about illness or set in hospitals or similar medical institutions
Sci-fi horror projects tend to be pretty cut and dry with their good guys, bad guys, and missions. The lead characters are bad mamma-jammas who know how to operate every weapon ever created. The villains are ugly, bloodthirsty and otherworldly. The mission boils down to fight or flight: defeat the bad guy or get away safely. But what if the bad guy cannot be defeated and the setting cannot be escaped? The story and character representation need to shift to other aspects, especially to maintain a several episodes-long TV show. The new horror series From masterfully manages its breakaway from these established archetypes.
From takes place in a present-day dystopian universe, centering around a community of strangers trapped in a nowhere town surrounded by the forest. In addition to their inability to leave, they have to barricade themselves inside at sundown to stay safe from ravenous monsters in the form of ghostly humans protruding from the woods. The monsters can only enter through open doors or windows and retreat at sunrise, but when they get inside, they kill and devour the town residents in brutal fashion. The townspeople are led and protected by the town sheriff, Boyd, his deputy Kenny, Father Khatri, a paramedic named Kristi, and several others.
Despite its sci-fi horror premise, this MGM+ original series picks its spots to be gory and violent. Rather than going the action route, From is much more character-driven than one might guess. It differs from many other post-apocalyptic works in that the characters still have some semblance of free will. In sci-fi shows like The Walking Dead or The Last of Us, the protagonists essentially have to keep fleeing the flesh-eating monsters to survive. In From, the citizens of this town live ordinary lives during the day and hole up inside at night, relying on trust and cooperation. This caveat creates interesting distinctions in the characters’ behavior.
The mix of personalities reveal opposing mindsets about how to handle such a grim reality, allowing different audience members to identify with different characters. For instance, Jade spends all of his time trying to figure out a way to escape the town. As a bachelor with no family who’s lost his best friend, Jade’s focus is not on providing, protecting, or cultivating relationships. He simply wants to get back to his old life. In complete contrast to Jade’s attitude is Fatima, who makes it a point to celebrate life and community with her acts of generosity, even in such a bleak atmosphere. She even says to another character at one point that she does not know how she would return back to her old life if they were all to escape. Jim and Tabitha must factor their children, Julie and Ethan, into every decision they make, protecting them before all else. In context, all of these characters’ actions and behaviors feel justifiable, but the characters nonetheless clash simply over their contrary approaches to coping.
The premise of From contributes to one of its biggest strengths—the diversity of its cast. Sci-fi projects tend to be predominantly White, often a reflection of their writer’s rooms. While there are plenty of White characters, Boyd, Kevin, and Kristi are all from underrepresented demographics (Black, Asian and Hispanic, respectively). All three characters have heavy speaking roles, positions of authority, and depth to their personalities. Though many projects are capable of incorporating this range of diversity into their cast, some fall back on the excuse of the time period or geographic region for not doing so. Having a premise in which the cast of characters randomly wind up in an undetermined dystopian setting, creates an opportunity for many people of color to appear on screen. Aside from their racial/ethnic backgrounds, the characters vary in age, gender and marital status as well. Since the citizens of From must cooperate with one another to gather resources and survive, their interactions (cordial or not) reveal their multi-dimensionality.
Given the hallucinations and ominous threats that the seemingly trapped townspeople experience, From feels the most similar to a season of American Horror Story. In spite of its surrealism and occasional graphic scenes, much of the story revolves around the backgrounds of the lead characters and their differing philosophies on how to stay alive. While From is not for the queasy or faint-of-heart, it provides an array of personalities that appeal to various audience segments. For added fun, take a shot of rum every time you hear the word “talisman.”
Harold Perrineau as "Boyd"
Ricky He as "Kenny"
Shaun Majumder as "Father Khatri"
Chloe Van Landschoot as "Kristi"
David Alpay as "Jade"
Pegah Ghafoori as "Fatima"
Eion Bailey as "Jim"
Catalina Sandino Moreno as "Tabitha"
Hannah Cheramy as "Julie"
Simon Webster as "Ethan"