Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #226
Number of Views: One
Release Date: May 13, 2007 (Cannes Film Festival)
Sub-Genre: Home Invasion/Extreme Exploitation
Country of Origin: France
Running Time: 82 minutes
Directors: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Producer: Franck Ribière, Vérane Frédiani
Screenplay: Alexandre Bustillo
Special Effects: Jacques-Olivier Molon
Visual Effects: Jessica Guglielmi, Rodolphe Guglielmi, Xavier Duval
Cinematography: Laurent Barès
Score: François-Eudes Chanfrault
Studio: La Fabrique de Films, BR Films
Distributor: La Fabrique de Films
Stars: Alysson Paradis, Jean-Baptiste Tabourin, Claude Lulé, Dominique Frot, Nathalie Roussel, François-Régis Marchasson, Béatrice Dalle, Hyam Zaytoun, Tahar Rahim, Emmanuel Guez, Ludovic Berthillot, Emmanuel Lanzi, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Aymen Saïdi
Suggested Audio Candy
François-Eudes Chanfrault “Inside”
I have been watching horror movies for the past thirty years and have seen some sickening sights, believe you me. I wouldn’t say that I have a particularly strong stomach but that does not mean I don’t hang out for a film which sickens me to my abdomen. As a lover of grue I embrace that which makes me feel nauseous in the same way as I desire to be scared shitless despite being easily spooked. Maximum impact is what it is all about and there is nothing I enjoy more than being put through the bloody ringer. With that said, Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury’s Inside is quite possibly one of the most sickening pieces of film ever committed to celluloid and I say that with a massive shit-eating grin spread across my cheeks.
Forget Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead with its outlandish bloodletting, hundreds of gallons of blood is one thing but when tongue is firmly in cheek said impact is drastically lessened. There are no zombie babies running around in baby grows causing merry mischief here, just one fretting fetus who spends the duration being rocked violently in the womb of its tortured carrier. Not so much as the faintest whiff of humor, no comedic rat monkeys or kickboxing clergymen, merely 82 minutes of sheer unrelenting terror. High Tension and Martyrs are both incredibly violent films but neither come within a country mile of the gut-churning atrocities on exhibit here.
It tells the story of Sarah (Alysson Paradis) a photojournalist and expectant mother who loses her husband in a horrific car accident but manages to hang onto her pregnancy. We rejoin her at the tail-end of her term, on the eve of Christmas to be precise, where she is alone in her suburban home still trying to make sense of the atrocities which have befallen her. For the first twenty minutes we are enlightened as to her loss as she battles to come to terms with the void it has left amongst violent race riots which have broken out in Paris.
Then, without any further do, she receives visitation from an ominous stranger (Béatrice Dalle) and what unfurls is a home invasion movie with a distinct difference. As the stranger makes her presence felt, and boy does she make that so, it becomes clear that she is not just here for Sarah but, in fact, her unborn child and her true intentions are exposed. Cue an hour of pressure-cooker tension as Sarah attempts to protect herself and her baby from the resourceful and totally unhinged psychopath.
This is more than just your regular home invasion movie and there is important subtext, most notably in the house itself, which represents Sarah’s personal womb and is twined perfectly with her actual womb, adding to our sense of protectiveness as we are desperately willing the expectant mother on to beat the odds. What begins as a simple game of cat-and-mouse escalates as numerous visitations throw a spanner in the works but the stranger takes them all in her stride, nonchalantly ridding any non-threats to her game plan in the most horrific manners possible.
The organic camerawork and vivid shot composition add credence as does the haunting and occasionally jolting score by François-Eudes Chanfrault which suits the tone exquisitely. It evokes emotion on various facets, highlighting her heartbreak and loss one minute while dragging us to the edge of terror on others. After the melancholic opener, the entire movie plays out inside her home giving an insular feel which grabs you by the throat and refuses to budge until the final shot has passed. By that point the viewer feels like they have carried the baby themselves full term and is left praying for an epidural.
If the seventies and eighties belonged to the Italians and the nineties the Asians, then the noughties have exposed the French as major players in the horror revolution. The pre-mentioned High Tension and Martyrs are possibly the best known and regarded examples of the genre from this period but À l’intérieur, to use its original tongued title, trumps them both. It is similar in many ways to Alexandre Aja’s tense chase movie in that it doesn’t rely on the addressee’s grasp of the French language or willingness to read reams of subtitles as dialogue is a very poor second to the overwhelming sense of panic and consternation.
Plausibility is tested at around the midway point but it effortlessly overcomes this shortfall by keeping the choke hold tight and refusing to slacken. In this respect it elevates its well-trodden theme to a whole new level, easily surpassing its stablemates. This is helped by a believable turn from Paradis and an utterly primal one from Dalle. She chooses not to wear a mask and instead ghosts around the house in black dress with that priceless demented look in her eyes which creates just the right degree of unease. Indeed, I cannot gush enough about this particular nightmare maker as no mask is ever required to encourage chills down our spines.
I cannot be clearer about the fact that Inside is not a movie for all palates. The weaker in disposition will be left sickened by the insane levels of bloodshed and Bustillo and Maury’s refusal to leave a single thing to the imagination. It can be deeply upsetting and is consistently unremitting, refusing to let up until the two would-be mothers have staked their claim on the infant. However there are few horror movies so well crafted or downright creepy so, should you be feeling courageous and possess a gut of wrought iron, there are few works capable of leaving such an interminable stain on our psyches. One thing is for damned sure: should La Femme be the midwife, then any expectant mothers may well think twice about getting that cesarean section as I’m fairly assured she has no intention of administering an epidural.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10
Grue Factor: 5/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: What initially appears to be a one-on-one battle to the birth ends up with a bloated body count. There are CGI flashes of La Femme’s incipient baby writhing in distress which are masterfully implemented but otherwise it is practical effects all the way. You will have the ominous pleasure of watching multiple no-holds barred stabbings, exploding heads that Savini himself would be proud of and enough of the deep red stuff to paint a monastery. Easily one of the goriest films ever to make it past the censors and the perfect companion piece to Srđan Spasojević‘s A Serbian Film should be wishing to throw your lunch back up into your lap.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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