The following article was original posted to Pulp Epic on November 4, 2014. It's now being reposted here at The Supernaughts as part of October's Halloween/horror celebration. Muwhahahahahahahahaha!
Inside (original French title: À l’intérieur) is a French horror film from 2007 that’s often considered among the best and most violent of this supposed “new wave of French horror”, an offshoot of the New French Extremity movement that began around the turn of the 21st century. These films are characterized by their severe take on violence and/or sex, influenced by body horror films from the likes of David Cronenberg and exploitation cinema of the 1970s.
To make a long story short, I’ve been meaning to watch Inside ever since I first heard about it back in 2008. The plot synopsis was very intriguing and I’ve always had a thing for single location/small cast films such as this. However, I kept putting it off until last week due to other aspects of the film that, to be quite honest, scared me. I read that it was extremely bloody and gory, that it was a serious, hardcore nightmare of terror, and that it would shock you to your core. That alone doesn’t necessarily turn me off from a film, for instance I’m a big fan of Ichi the Killer (among other violent Asian films) and I’ve already seen High Tension (another example of New French Extremity), but in combination with what I knew of the plot, I was concerned, concerned that maybe I wouldn’t be able to stomach this one due to the subject matter…
Inside is about a young, depressed, expectant mother named Sarah who’s spending Christmas Eve preparing for the scheduled birth of her child the following day. The root cause of her depression stems from a gruesome car accident just a few months prior, one that she survived though unfortunately her husband did not. Sarah is now left to raise their child on her own and understandably isn’t handling it very well, although she does receive some help from her mother and her boss. They want Sarah to spend the evening with family, but Sarah is withdrawn and wishes only to spend the night by herself in the comfort of her home.
At home, Sarah spends time with her photography work and retreats into memories of her husband until she hears a knock at the door. It’s a woman looking to use the phone because her car has broken down, but Sarah, being alone, sensibly lies to the woman, saying that her husband is asleep and she doesn’t wish to disturb him. Sarah suggests that the woman should try another house, to which the woman replies “Your husband is not sleeping, Sarah. He’s dead.”
It’s not hard to figure out that the rest of the film goes down a terrifying and bloody path, especially if you’re familiar with the film’s posters, trailers, or DVD/Blu-ray cover art. There’s also a lot more ground to cover, as my brief synopsis only recaps the opening 18 minutes of this 80 minute film. It’s a tight, lean little horror film and I won’t spoil any further important details.
So with that out of the way, I guess you can say that I survived the experience. In regards to the blood and gore, it isn’t quite as bad as I expected it to be. There is certainly a ton of it and it got a tad extreme at times, yet the quality is excellent, looking damn impressive without going completely over the top. There are a couple of squeamish moments that I had anticipated, but they aren’t as graphic as my mind had made them up to be before hand. Still, it’s not a movie for the faint of heart and I’d highly recommend pregnant women stay far, far away from it. At least wait until after you’ve had the baby before watching it.
As for more important aspects of the film, there is plenty to like. The two leads, Alysson Paradis as Sarah and Béatrice Dalle as La femme, provide outstanding performances, which is essential to making this whole thing a success. The emotional authenticity that they lend to the proceedings helps Inside rise above the vast majority of slasher/home invasion horror films that I’ve seen. The rest of the small cast provides satisfactory work. No one else gets a chance to shine, yet no one sticks out like a sore thumb either and that’s really all you can ask for from a one-on-one film such as this.
The direction from then newcomers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury is solid throughout with a few flashes of brilliance. One very subtle scene is creepy foreshadowing at its finest and another scene shortly after that directly leads to shit hitting the fan will have you on the edge of your seat. Bustillo and Maury are working from their own screenplay and it too is excellent. The story works from beginning to end and it’s skilfully paced, increasing the tension bit by bit while staggering the arrival of additional characters to optimal effect. There is a touch of predictability at times, but nothing that could be avoided without a cliche “keep the audience in the dark” approach that the film wisely avoids. It even makes up for this predictability on occasion by having characters realize a mistake before it gets too far out of hand.
I also feel the score is very well done. It’s never used as a crutch to incite fear and is largely absent for the majority of the tension building moments. Instead, it shows up generally as an accompaniment to actions already in progress, such as moody melodies during Sarah’s reminiscing or harsh, distorted noise during moments of aggression.
Overall I enjoyed Inside immensely, however it’s not without its faults. The most noteworthy problem is the unnecessary use of CGI to show a child within the womb. It’s used minimally, though nonetheless looks terrible and doesn’t add anything to the film in my opinion. I understand why they may have thought it would be useful, but it does more harm than good as far as I’m concerned.
The only other issues I have with the film lie in the suspension of disbelief, a common area of concern, especially with horror films. Usually it’s characters making stupid decisions or scientifically inaccurate events that help to propel the plot forward and Inside falls mostly into the latter. Nothing major enough to ruin the film for me, but it is noticeable sometimes. For example, an accidental death occurs that would have been more plausible if staged with a slight adjustment to the room and some characters manage to avoid death based on somewhat unbelievable circumstances. Very, very few horror films dodge these issues entirely though, so like I said, not a big deal.
Inside is an excellent horror film with loads of suspense, chills, and gore. It also features a pair of superb acting performances and a disturbing story that will stick with you long after it’s over. I highly recommend it for horror fans or fans of controversial subject matter in general.