Logic needs to be thrown completely out of the window when watching creepfest Within. It’s directed by Phil Claydon of Lesbian Vampire Killers fame – the 2009 B-movie about lesbian vampires enslaving a village’s womenfolk, only for unlikely heroes James Corden and Mathew Horne to come along and save the day. Indeed, this was well before Corden conquered Tinseltown with his celebrity carpools.
The point is to aim ‘middle-ish’ with Within and there’s enough entertainment and ‘look away now’, jumpy bits to be had. In fact, the whole premise is nicely spun along, namely guessing whether the sinister situation is ‘living’ or ‘supernatural’ in cause. The Alexanders (Michael Vartan, Nadine Velazquez and Erin Moriarty) move neighbourhood to a new house whose occupants have long gone, leaving a garage full of memories. Youngest member Hannah (Moriarty) has been grounded after a teenage party, and is given the task of clearing the boxes, all under the leering gaze of creepy locksmith neighbour Ray Walsh (Ronnie Gene Blevins). However, while home alone, she begins to notice things out of place, noises from the attic and pictures falling off walls. What happened to the last residents? The Alexanders are soon to find out.
Within unashamedly takes effective bits from other horror classics but never attempts to reinvent the wheel. It feels like a carbon copy of many a modern American suburban ‘haunting’, complete with a good-looking cast in Moriarty, Velazquez, Blake Jenner and Vartan (‘groom-in-the-middle’ Kevin from Monster-in-Law). There is even the horror obsession with youthfulness, with voyeuristic ‘spying’ shots through a crack in Hannah’s bedroom door.
Captain Fantastic’s Moriarty is our guide as the mystery unfolds, bizarrely unfazed by strange occurrences and noises – like closet doors creaking open. Moriarty is convincing enough, though her character feels as restricted in her acting as she is in her movements while grounded. Things happen by numbers in this horror game, until we get to a Paranormal Activity filming scene that ramps up the dread and injects new terror into proceedings. This is when the film gets interesting.
Once reality takes hold though, believability wanes because you question how a family living within these flimsy MDF four walls wouldn’t begin to smell a rat (or body)? Admittedly, to keep up the reality-supernatural question means suspension of common-sense. Like all such horrors, as soon as the culprit is found out, things escalate at frightening speed, as though filmmakers Claydon and co are keen to get to the finale when they could have lulled us back into a false sense of security and really played with our minds. There was ample scope to do this and be clever about it.
That said, Within does stay faithful to its genre and delivers the goods for fans of home hauntings. Indeed, there are two simultaneous threats that you know will converge; the question is when? This is the only ‘difference’ to the norm. There is even an eyebrow-raising ‘fact’ in the end credits that’s designed to give substance to what Claydon and co have delivered. As a generic, ‘leap out of your seat’, popcorn-spilling offering at the cinema, Within ticks all the boxes – just don’t expect to be challenged any further.