When I missed seeing Inside at the 2007 Los Angeles Screamfest, I was mightily disappointed. I had heard a lot of buzz on the bleak French horror flick, but really didn't know what it was about. I guess I assumed something fun and creepy along the lines of The Devil Inside Her or It's Alive, but I was totally negative on that pregnancy test.
Now don't get me wrong — because I love an evil-baby movie as much as anyone — but this concept is so much fresher and certainly more realistic (won't spell it out, but once you see the killer's motive you will remember the spate of similar crimes in the news from a year or so back). Not to mention genuinely frightening — it was been a long time since a new horror movie has been original, scary, suspenseful and blood-soaked all at once.
The movie opens with a pretty badly-rendered CGI baby in-utero, with the gentle voiceover of his mom assuring him nothing can ever harm him… then: boom! A brutal and bloody car crash devastates pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis), leaving her without a husband. Four months later, over the Christmas holidays, she is finally ready to give birth. While her mother (Nathalie Roussel) and her boss (François-Régis Marchasson) are supportive, Sarah really is on her own. Alone in her apartment as the world celebrates the birth of Christ, the sullen young mom broods.
Her solitude is broken late at night, when a stranger knocks upon her door. It is a mysterious female, whose quiet menace is palpable. Who is this woman? "Le Femme" (Béatrice Dalle) could be anyone, or anything. Is she Death, coming to claim Sarah and her unborn son? Is she a ghost? An avenger? We know as little as Sarah, as the story unfolds one stab at a time.
Eventually Le Femme invades Sarah's home, and terrorizes her most sadistically. Locked inside her bathroom, bleeding profusely, the pregnant victim listens in abject dismay as the policemen she called, and various visitors, meet horrible fates at the end of the murderess's razor sharp shears. The death and fight scenes are brutal, grand-guignol gory, violent, mean and nasty. Believe me, not a single thing is left to the imagination here.
Oftentimes, that tack does not work: the unseen tends to be more effective, but somehow these first-time directors (Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, who are currently shooting a remake of Hellraiser and say on the DVD extras that they don't know much about horror) really know how to sustain a sense of dread even as the unrelenting, gratuitiuos violence is taking place.
In spite of its shortcomings (incredibly stupid characters, bad CGI and some pretty obvious prosthetics), Inside is still an impressive and shocking film, to say the least. It's a must-see for genre fans based on its sheer cruelty and raw nihilism alone, but when you factor in the excellent acting, super cinematography, and friction-fraught score, Inside becomes an instant modern classic en francais, along the lines of Haute Tension, Irreversible, and Dans ma Peau. Don't miss it.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson