Stephen King really should get an “inspired by” credit on Epix’s clever “From,” a new show that feels almost more indebted to the master of horror than their recent “Chapelwaite,” despite that disappointing venture being a literal adaptation. The creators of “From” have clearly read a few King stories, as echoes of Desperation, The Mist, It, and more filter through “From” with confidence. It also won’t surprise anyone that this show features some of the creative voices behind ABC’s “LOST” as this is another series about ordinary people stranded in an extraordinary place, one they can’t escape, and one that may be trying to kill them. Overall, it’s a smart, extremely watchable horror show that would likely become a big hit on a streaming giant but might get lost on Epix. Find your way to it.
“From” opens with a striking sequence that sets the tone. On a street that looks like it cuts through one of those barely populated ghost towns you get lost in while trying to find gas on a road trip, Boyd Stevens (the great Harold Perrineau) rings a bell as the sun sets. Everyone has to be indoors before dark, and we soon find out why when a little girl answers the voice at her window. Standing outside is what looks like her grandmother. It’s not nana. It turns out this nondescript town has a problem when the sun goes down. They have talismans on their doors to keep them safe and strict rules about going out of their houses after dark for a reason—they will be brutally murdered by the supernatural forces that live in the woods. (Read any pandemic-era lockdown parable into the storytelling at your pleasure.)
After the bloody prologue, the real action of “From” opens when a family in an R.V. drives down that same street Boyd walked at the beginning. It turns out there are about to be new residents. The family—patriarch Jim (Eion Bailey), matriarch Tabitha (Catalina Sandino Moreno), and kids Julie (Hannah Cheramy) and Ethan (Simon Webster)—learns the hard way that anyone who gets lost here never leaves. They can try to drive out, but they will only drive back in. And the Matthews family isn’t alone as another car ends up on the road to town, leading to an accident and even more chaos. And then the sun starts to set.
Much of the first four episodes of “From” feel like world-building in a way that’s also very King. In his novels, he’s always careful to fill in details about supporting characters, and I was happy to see that happen here too. It’s not just the story of a lost family or a struggling town leader—the show’s writing often weaves its way into other households like the tragedy that befalls a local lawman (Ricky He) or the moral conflict that emerges between Boyd and Father Khatri (Shaun Majumder). There’s a whole co-op house of people who live together up on a hill that’s filled with fascinating supporting characters like Boyd’s son Ellis (Corteon Moore) or the mysterious Fatima (Pegah Ghafoori) or fascinating Victor (Scott McCord). Much like the extended cast of “LOST,” this seems like a show that understands ensemble, which isn’t often the case in genre TV, which too often relies on a strict protagonist POV. Every episode of “From” feels a bit richer in terms of world-building, and that can’t be underestimated.
The dialogue can be a little thin, but that might improve as “From” is done setting the table it needs to in these opening episodes. All I know is that I’m interested in seeing how this full meal is served. I have a feeling it will be satisfying in a way that all of us Stephen King and “LOST” fans will remember.
Four episodes screened for review.