Looking for something gruesome and ghastly to watch this Halloween? Something to sicken you? Something to leave you whimpering in the corner, crying out for High School Musical?
Well, Inside/À l’intérieur is the relentlessly grim movie for you.
The film is certainly light on plot – widowed pregnant woman home alone on Christmas Eve is tormented by a strange woman pretty much covers it – but certainly not light on horror. And by horror, I mostly mean lots and lots of blood, with a healthy portion of nasty maiming and death mixed in. Incredibly graphic, bloody horror seems to be something that the French do particularly well, judging from Jonesy the Cat’s review of Martyrs, and other recent films, including Switchblade Romance/Haute Tension (Alexandre Aja, 2003) and The Ordeal/Calvaire (Fabrice Du Welz, 2004). This is seriously not for the squeamish.
Inside is kept afloat by the performances of its two female leads: Alysson Paradis who plays Sarah, the pregnant woman who survived the car crash that killed her husband and wants to be alone before she gives birth, and Beatrice Dalle, credited simply as ‘La Femme’, who terrorises her in a violent attempt to take her baby.
The complexity of Sarah’s feelings are well embodied by Paradis, as are her attempts at agency in the face of relentless attack. The desperation of Sarah’s situation is the main thrust of the film and the filmmakers don’t shy away from letting us feel this most viscerally through the body of the actress (and her excellent prosthetic belly). Dalle is perfectly cast as the mysterious and seriously disturbed attacker, particularly if you remember her in films like Betty Blue/37º2 le matin (Jean-Jacques Beineix).
For a large proportion of the film she seems to be an almost supernatural presence, gliding never walking, her hair covering her expressions. When her own desperation becomes more apparent, her violent transformation into forceful and vicious tormentor is alarming to say the least.
Unfortunately, somewhat like Switchblade Romance and The Ordeal, the film manages to unravel itself slightly by incorporating a couple of key moments that don’t make sense, and therefore draw away from the film as a whole.
Also, there are some rather ill-advised shots of Sarah’s baby inside her, which, while fitting into the grand scheme of things, aren’t really needed. Witnessing the violence that is happening to Sarah automatically makes the viewer aware of what is happening to her unborn child, and this is indeed part of the power of the film.
Inside is a brutal and unremitting experience which subjects its characters, and the viewer, to a horrendous series of events.
It is visceral and intense, which makes it a powerful piece of horror, but at the same time leaves you with nothing much more.
Apart from its (rather obvious) tricksiness, the main thrust of it is unpleasantness, and this results in a rather empty experience overall.
Additional film information: À l’intérieur (2007)