Writer/director Lee Eubanks creates a surreal world of dread, isolation, and unease in his feature film debut It Takes from Within. The film follows a man and woman as they desperately trudge through a desolate, gray landscape on their way to attend a funeral. It Takes from Within serves as a cinematic examination of our fears and anxieties regarding the human condition in conflict with the crisis of death.

Rather than employ a conventional narrative structure, It Takes from Within is largely comprised of abstract, introspective scenes experienced from the point of view of the two unnamed leads (no names are provided for any cast member in the film). Nightmarish characters, environments, and scenes exude mood and atmosphere filled with loss, fear, and desolation. Eubanks takes advantage of avant-garde filmmaking techniques, conceptual imagery, and experimental sound design in order to deliver the film’s themes.

The film opens with a seemingly detached scene involving the entire cast, featuring a brooding score without any spoken dialogue. The scene moves through several surreal images- a harsh spotlight of grass in the middle of a dark void, a young woman crawling on the ground while screaming and crying, and a bed where an elderly couple are violently tucked in and forcefully put to sleep. After this bizarre prelude the film floats between scenes, following the two leads (actor James Feagin and actress Kristin Duarte) as they each separately explore their deserted, harrowing surroundings in search of the funeral they are scheduled to attend.

While dialogue is infrequent, Eubanks cares to use the dialogue as yet another device to deliver mood rather than plot. Characters often communicate through cryptic and emotionally reserved words, lost and isolated even when speaking to each other. After a scene involving a poetic soliloquy delivered in solitude, the film continues without a word spoken for nearly thirty-five minutes. Characters and scenes develop in abstract, nonsensical, and dreamlike manners. A man drinks soiled water from a birdbath, a sexual fantasy turns into a failed dissociative daydream, a young couple comically fail to communicate with each other, a flower arrangement bursts into flames on an unending stretch of highway, copious amounts of a strange black liquid spread and stain bed sheets during an intimate encounter, all while the two main characters continue to be followed and haunted by visions of an older man and woman.

It Takes from Within's minimalist aesthetics are simultaneously layered with detail and attention, apparent in the black-and-white compositions from cinematographer Jason Crow. Beautiful and thoughtfully photographed shots include unique landscapes, dim interiors, and a stunning scene set in a noisy cafe filmed entirely in one continuous nine-minute shot.

Artist D.L.E.I.I.'s contributions to the music and sound design create a desolate, yet abrasive sonic environment in the film. Featuring howling wind in nearly every scene, the soundscape directly attacks both the characters in the film and the viewing audience through its increasingly deafening sounds, menacing noises, and textured soundtracks. Cello and violin strings give way to dark drones, dissonant piano melodies, and high-pitched frequencies, building a varied and profound composition inspired by experimental musicianship.

Eubanks' It Takes from Within is tailored for audiences who take pleasure in interpreting a film on their own terms, without distinct or easy-to-follow guidelines. It is a film that provides plenty of abstract material to explore and challenge. For those who are willing to take the dark and sometimes disturbing ride, it is quite a journey to experience.

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