WAYW: ‘FROM’ blends ‘LOST’ dilemma + King gambits (for better/worse)…

Salem's LOST? Mood, monsters and music... FROM delivers a lot, but runs the risk of derailing detours...

The Matthews family and their RV are driving along a country road when their way is blocked by a fallen tree. There’s no way around and so they look for a detour. They find themselves in a backwater town where there’s a funeral taking place and the locals – led by the local sheriff – seem agitated by their arrival. They head out of town, only to repeatedly find themselves back on the same track. When another car causes them to crash, the locals rally to help them but seem terrified as the light of day starts to fade.

Sheriff Boyd warns them that there’s something deadly lurking in the trees… something that only looks human. Soon a first night of doubt breaks into the realisation that whatever the town is and whatever surrounds it – there’s no immediate way to leave. As the townsfolk and the newcomers try ever more desperate solutions to understand their predicament and find a way home, it becomes all too clear that whomever or whatever holds them within the town has no intention of letting them discover the truth…



Mood is everything in a show like this and there’s no argument that From – created by John Griffin – mines those shivers well from the start… especially with its opening theme – an ethereal version of Que Sera, Sera performed by The Pixies. There’s a sense of dread created by this recrafting and repurposing of the classic, previously-optimistic song and it hangs over what’s to come like a shroud that never lets you settle too comfortably thereafter. The premise – a town into which you can arrive but apparently never leave and surrounded by some kind of sinister presence is a good hook. Early on, the show gets ruthless with its kill-list with some unexpected casualties suggesting there’s legitimately a lot up for grabs amongst the familiar. The show and its creative team demonstrate consistently how even a rambling town can be claustrophobic given the right elements… day or night. There are also some effective and subtle directorial choices en route. One rushed car-ride through the night is viewed entirely from within the vehicle and it works well.  A frequent tactic here is to off-set the camera just a little. Usually in a film or show, when a scene is framed to show several characters near a doorway and said entrance is prominent, it’s because someone is about to enter or leave. Here, there are many moments when the sequence is framed that way, but nothing immediately happens and that adds the visual equivalent of making the viewer nervous without always knowing why and paying more attention. Much is made of sound, hearing the howling night threats and screams and their aftermath but often not the actual incident (that could be a budgetary concern as well, but the show doesn’t shirk from its prosthetics or production design).

From‘s eventual problems unfortunately do echo the most obvious genre touchstone: LOST. It’s not only the presence of Harold Perrineau as Sherrif Boyd (who essayed the much-maligned Michael in the ABC show before an early and contentious exit) but the very familiar concept of a group of people stuck somewhere strange, looking for a way out and facing threats from a mysterious enemy and conflict within their own ranks. The premise is, in one form or another, a familiar aspect of many a drama, so the success is in the execution.  From‘s variation starts promisingly, playing into not just the core dilemma but also building the surrounding threats nicely. If the show seems immediately LOST-y, it also channels the feeling of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot with the ‘Night People’ being savagely violent but also inherently calm. They’re like backwood versions of Buffy‘s ‘Gentlemen’ complete with unnatural smiles.

Our entry-point to the show is the Matthews family (Eion Bailey as Jim, Catalina Sandino Moreno as wife Tabitha and their kids Julie – played by Hannah Cheramy and Simon Webster’s young and troubled Ethan). They all react differently to their sudden inability to move on beyond the town and if they situate a little too quickly, then it’s a way to keep things moving at close range. Perrineau anchors things well, making Boyd a decent man drawing on past traumas to help establish an order in the town and whose spiraling and sometimes ill-advised choices often come from entirely reasonable readings of unreasonable situations. Elizabeth Saunders as feisty foul-mouthed matriarch and Earth-Mother Donna, remains a delight throughout, often bringing the pragmatic sit-down-and-shut-up attitude backed up by more a rifle and her genuine commitment to those around her. David Alpay essays another newcomer Jade, a self-centred, yet smart entrepreneur who inhabits a Dr. Smith-meets-Tony-Stark persona but who quickly starts to get some of the best scenes and assumes a somewhat understandable exasperation at the lack of progress as events unspool.

But to sustain the mystery, From starts adding so many flourishes that it suffers the same way LOST did… from competing, contradictory narratives and threads. As we progress through Seasons One and Two, the interesting idea of the Night People’s threat – physically and mentally – to the townspeople, somewhat dilutes itself into visions of period-dressed ill-children that come and go, magic faraway trees (not the Enid Blyton version – though that itself is screaming out for an adaptation), cobwebby vistas, distant lighthouses, dancing ballerinas and Boyd being infected by  – ewwwww – under-skin bugs by a spectral prisoner. It feels, very much like LOST…that the writers are all talented people, but there’s no genuine roadmap and ‘weird shit’ is just being thrown into the mix because it works in the moment. Equally, the show’s characters – many of them interesting and played well – compete for screentime. Again, like LOST, there’s a sudden influx of new characters at the start of Season Two and that does little to help and actually weakens the oppressive idea of the population quickly dwindling under pressure. Often key, urgency-filled characters (such as stabby-girl Sara Myers – played with dangerous, confused style by Avery Konrad and knows-more-than-he’s-saying oldest-resident Victor, played with diffident relish by Scott McCord) will vanish for several episodes to make way for the emphasis of the week only to wander back in to pick up where they left off, even if time has passed.

At time of writing the second run is concluding on MGM+ (formally EPIX) with a development that – again – is not dissimilar to one of LOST‘s cliffhangers and with no firm commitment to a third run – so running the risk of a high-concept left dangling. (Season Two was confirmed about two weeks after the first season ended, so we might get news in early July, either way) On the strength of the core concept and its ups and downs to date, hopes it will be given another season, but under the condition that however much you can say it’s ‘all about the journey’, it starts to draw its threads together and that FROM finally arrives at a destination as promised by its creators… on that basis, viewing of the first two seasons is recommended.

Why aren't you watching... 'FROM?'  (streaming review)
Why aren't you watching... 'FROM?' (streaming review)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • Direction
  • Production Design / VFX