*Editor’s note: This review contains heavy spoilers
Quite possibly the scariest film I’ve seen since THE RING remake is Dimension Films’ INSIDE (A l’interieur), which was co-directed by first timers Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo. The duos creation is something I have never seen in a French film – it’s a unique and artistic vision that transcends into one of the most grounded bloodbaths in the history of our beloved genre. If there was one film to compare INSIDE to, it’s John Carpenter’s classic HALLOWEEN (seriously).
It’s impossible to really give a good analysis of INSIDE without ruining some of the plot, which is unfortunate because I almost believe one should know NOTHING before viewing. But here we are and here we go – there’s no turning back now…
INSIDE is a trip back to the late ‘70s, early ‘80s when the idea behind a good horror film was created on a level of minimalism. Most of the film is contained within a small space, thus creating a high level of claustrophobia and anxiety. In addition, the plot is razor thin, keeping everything simple and to the point. Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is a young photographer who recently lost her husband in a car crash. She’s alone on Christmas and is going to have her baby the next day – even if they have to induce labor. She’s so sad and miserable that you almost believe she doesn’t even want to have the child. After her trip to the hospital Sarah returns home only to be visited late in the night by a mysterious woman (Beatrice Dalle) who wants to get inside. Soon enough we learn that this woman has one goal in mind… retrieve the baby from inside Sarah’s womb.
There are two wonderful things about this film; the first being that the movie features two strong women as leads; the second is that both of these women have motives that are so focused and believable that you almost don’t know whose side to take. The screenplay for INSIDE is solid, grounded, believable and most of all captivating. Our two main characters are developed beautifully into women that we both care about and can sympathize with, making every moment that much more suspenseful.
Besides the gore, which we’ll get to momentarily, the centerpiece of this masterpiece is the directing by Maury and Bustillo and breathtaking cinematography by Laurent Bares. The entire film is an emotional ride built simply on the structures and aesthetics of the environment. What you are about to witness is a film that can be compared to a classic painting by Michelangelo or Leonardo DeVinci. The rooms are low-lit with an odd haze and a soft yellow look, only something about it is unsettling… maybe it hits almost too close to home? Sarah lives in a typical suburban that many viewers will feel like they can relate to. The way its shot makes the film feel ultra dense; every scene, every moment, every single second is claustrophobic making it hard to breathe. INSIDE is like looking deep into the soul of those classic paintings where you become so engulfed in their beauty that it takes your breath away.
This is cinema at it’s finest.
And then there’s blood… lots and lots and lots of blood.
The Woman (we never do find out her name) is determined to get her hands on Sarah’s baby and will no anything to get it. Once she gets into the house the level of chaos unloads so quickly that there’s not a second to digest. She slashes Sarah across the face and then chases her to the bathroom where she locks herself in. Throughout the film, various people stop by to check on Sarah, which results in a bloodbath of epic proportions. This is quite possibly the most violent, realistic and bloody slasher film ever assembled, ending on such a gut-wrenching note that there’s not a single person who could walk out of that theater feeling normal.
Furthermore, INSIDE is terrifying, one of the scariest movies I have ever seen in my life – think HALLOWEEN, only bloody as hell. Early in the film, after attempting to trick her way into Sarah’s house, The Woman (dressed in all black) appears outside the back porch door glaring inside. She stares with hate and determination, only we don’t know her motive at that time. The moment is so incredibly unsetting only escalating from there. She punches the glass and runs off as the cops come to check in on Sarah’s call. There’s no one there and this mysterious person has vanished. Relax Sarah everything is fine! Of course it isn’t – The Woman is now in the house. She blends into the atmosphere and appears in the background of nearly every shot. She’s there, I swear I just saw her… but maybe that was just my imagination? Then as quick as she vanishes she appears through the blackest of shadows like she’s walking right of the thin air (the only time I have EVER seen a shot like this was in HALLOWEEN 2!) As the film progresses we learn a little more about her motives and determination. Her sanity begins to snap and this confident, looming, uncompromising individual turns into an axe murderer from hell – only her weapon of choice is a pair of scissors. She will do anything to get Sarah out of that bathroom and loses it when she can’t get the door open; she kicks it, stabs it and freaks out so hard that she even accidentally hurts herself. It’s such a “human” moment and something quite rare in this genre.
Sans a few odd moments that had me scratching my head (instead of escaping from The Woman, some cops attempt to turn the power back on?) INSIDE is the perfect horror film and easily one of the greatest home invasion movies ever made. It will toy with your emotions, keep you on the edge of your seat and eventually scar you. Mark my words, not a single genre fan will be disappointed with this work of art… that’s painted in blood.