Inside (2007)

Author: Wes R.
Submitted by: Wes R.   Date : 2008-05-26 12:28

Directed by: Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo
Written by: Alexandre Bustillo
Starring: Alysson Paradis, Béatrice Dalle, François-Régis Marchasson, and Nathalie Roussel

Reviewed by: Wes R.

“What kind of man would fuck a maniac like you?”

French horror has undergone a renaissance in recent years. If there is proof that the J-Horror fad is currently dead, it is the emergence and popularity of French films like Them, High Tension, and this modern classic, Inside. Like many, I’d heard of Inside through online forums and websites. I’d heard how intense and scary it was supposed to be, but went into it with a skeptical eye. After all, how many other “next best thing” type of films have we gone through and been let down by? Plenty. However, I can say without hesitation that Inside belongs on the mantle with the other two great French flicks that I mentioned above, and actually, it may be the best one yet.

After her husband is killed in a car crash, pregnant Sarah becomes a recluse. Even at Christmas , she wants no one around her house. That all changes when a menacing lady in black (known only in the credits as “The Woman”) shows up, demanding that she be let inside. After police arrive and see nothing out of the ordinary, the mysterious woman shows up again, making clear her intentions to cut her unborn baby from Sarah’s womb. Pretty dark stuff, you may be thinking. You’re absolutely right. They just don’t make them like this here in America, sadly. Soon, anyone who gets in the way of The Woman falls victim to her ever-sharp scissors. Can Sarah get away, and what exactly does The Woman want with her baby?

This really is an amazing movie. It’s so incredibly well made and directed that I’m now hoping we hear much more from these two gifted directors. On the surface, it’s a slasher, but it really does belong in a demented category of its own. Most filmmakers walk a fine line when including infants in scenes of horror. You harm the baby, you lose the audience. Right up front, the filmmakers of Inside show the audience where they may be prepared to go. A shot inside the womb of a pregnant woman, during an auto accident, in which we see the infant’s face full of life and then suddenly the head jerks forward with the impact and is no longer moving. Fear not, the baby survives. It was a brave scene, and certainly not one I ever thought I would see in a horror film. It’s shocking, but not exploitative. It’s more sad than anything. And afterall, isn’t horror often tragedy? The film's greatest strength is that its filmmakers aren't afraid to show you things you may not be prepared to see. For sure, there are images in the film that haunt you long after the credits roll. At many times in the film, these filmmakers reminded me of some of Dario Argento's better setpieces. Like Dario, they understand how to use violence with emotion and how to show it at its most brutal.

The kills are gruesome. The film has a fairly low body count, but that matters not. The film’s brutality has garnered a lot of its publicity, and rightfully so. These deaths aren't meant to be "awesome" or "beautiful". Though they have the brutality of an Argento flick, they aren't shot with the artful bravura that Dario is known for. No, the deaths in this film are quite ugly and horrible. You don't want to die these deaths. These victims do not go quietly. There is a lot of bleeding, gurgling, moaning, and squirming. These victims don’t get the bloodless one-stab kills of long ago. Instead, they bleed out until they die, giving the film an unsettling realism. People are stabbed in the eyes, neck, throat, testicles, mostly with scissors and knitting needles. The deaths also mean something. The victims aren’t just mindless one-line extras. These are people who could’ve helped Sarah out and now they are gone. Their deaths add to the overall feeling of dread that permeates the entire film. Some of the violence is very difficult to watch. I say with no shame that I had to close my eyes and flinch a time or two. It really is that gruesome.

This is the kind of nail-biting suspenser that would’ve made Alfred Hitchcock proud. From the moment the mysterious lady in black appears, she provides an unsettling presence that endures throughout the film. Who is she? What does she want with Sarah and her unborn child? So many questions. So much mystery. The on-screen cat-and-mouse chemistry between the two lead females is stunning. Sarah gets beaten down and battered plenty, but she never gives up, and gives The Woman a true knock-down, drag-out fight for her life. They are the perfect protagonist and antagonist. One of the most intense sequences occurs toward the end, when the entire house becomes pitch black. Sarah, a single police officer, and a criminal he was apprehending when he took the call to come by Sarah’s house are alone in the house, and seemingly at the mercy of The Woman. She could pop out anywhere, at any time. The suspense is truly maddening. The location is very minimalist, but like some of the best films, its simplicity works. Like what was displayed in Them, home invasion is a terrifying concept. We don’t have to be alone in a dark alley, the woods, or an insane asylum for something out of a horror movie to happen to us. Some of the worst things could very possibly happen to us in the safety and comfort of our own homes.

Beatrice Dalle as “The Woman” is truly one of the most menacing and evil horror film villains of the last twenty years. Her dementia and sickness make for one of the scariest performances I’ve seen in a long, long time. Her look and demeanor is almost witch-like. You want to know what the Blair Witch could’ve looked like? Look no further than this performance. Though, by the end, like all great movie monsters, you almost feel sorry for her. You may not agree with the degree of vengeance she has taken, but you somewhat understand. The musical score is bizarre and intense. Sounding much more like noise than music at times, but I think a lot of the better scores out there utilize this concept. The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a stellar example. All technical aspects of the film are flawless. The lighting perfectly accentuates the film’s constant bloodflow. The early appearances of The Woman are all chilling because of how low key they are. They aren’t accompanied by a frenzy of heavy music cues. They are mostly silent. You almost don’t even notice her at first, until you sort of “feel” her in the frame. And then, you’re like “Holy crap! Sarah, run! Wake up!” I can’t help but think that if this were your average Hollywood film that these particular sequences would’ve been ruined by trying too hard to be scary. Again I say, simplicity is the key.

As if the rest of the review isn’t enough to whet your appetite for this great flick, I’ll sum it all up. This film is scary, bloody, haunting, intense, gruesome...everything most modern horror films try to be but just aren't. This film is genuine. It has heart and it has horror. Why the French get it and we don’t, I’m not certain. This is a definite must-see and is destined to become a classic that fans will revisit numerous times over the years. It’s more than just a simple slasher, folks. It's more than just a collection of "torture porn" type setpieces. It’s a positively grueling motion picture experience, and one that I give my highest of recommendations to. If you’re tired of the usual safe and sanitary PG-13 type remakes and lighter fare from Hollywood these days, try watching Inside. You too will see that the horror genre is a long way off from being dead. It just needs filmmakers who truly understand the art to craft the really good ones. Part of Dimension's new "Dimension Extreme" video label, Inside gives us hope for the modern direct-to-video market. Perhaps Dimension's new line will do what other similar horror-specific brands have tried and failed to do. If Inside is any indication, Dimension Extreme might just be the real deal. Essential!

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