★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Sharks, rotting corpses/ghosts, and a survivor guilt haunt a young woman in this psychological horror.
Directed by Jose Montesinos
Part psychological thriller, part horror movie, part horror comedy, and part descent-into-madness drama, writer/director Jose Montesinos’ From the Depths is an odd but always interesting film. It definitely has an ambitious reach, and though it doesn’t always stick its various landings, it offers its share of entertainment.
Angelica Briones stars as Liz, a young woman who lost her boyfriend and sister when the trio was attacked by one or more sharks one year before the film’s beginning. The one shark that Liz definitely saw has invaded her dreams, allowing her to get no more than two hours of fitful sleep per night. Despite having a competent therapist (Liz Fenning) and a sympathetic girlfriend (Terra Strong as Roberta) with whom she has so far avoided being intimate, Liz seems to be getting worse.
Adding to her psychological issues is the fact that her deceased sister Payton (Marissa Godinez) and boyfriend Seth (Taylor Jorgensen) come back to haunt her — actually, to hassle her might be a better term. Godinez’s Payton is strongly reminiscent of Griffin Dunne’s Jack character in An American Werewolf in London, from wisecracking to bodily decay.
It’s not easy to gauge just how seriously writer/director Jose Montesinos means for From the Depths to be taken, and viewer mileage will vary accordingly. The scenes with Liz and her therapist and between Liz and Roberta are played rather straightforwardly, but sandwiched between such scenes are deliberately comical and sometimes questionably comical scenes. It’s difficult not to laugh at, or perhaps with, scenes of a CG shark swimming in the air, but Liz’s continuously declining mental state is no joke.
The cast members acquit themselves well, with Fenning doing a solid job as the main character. Her breakdown over a gardener and loud leaf blower is a highlight of her scenes. She and Strong play off of each other well. Godinez plays her character on the fine line of funny and annoying, with nice comic timing.
From the Depths is a low-budget outing, and its seams sometimes show, especially in regard to the shark — you get both CG and practical effects versions here, which is ambitious — and its aftermath. Montesinos paces the proceedings soundly and juggles the different subgenres at play nicely. The ending scene, by the way, which didn’t really work for me, is bound to be divisive. Viewers looking for a straight-up horror thriller with loads of shark attacks may be disappointed, but adventurous viewers who gravitate toward chance-taking independent fare should find From the Depths worth diving into.
From the Depths will screen as part of the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival, which runs online from December 11–27, 2020. For more information about the festival, visit https://www.ahith.com/.