‘Inside’ (À l’intérieur)

Poster for 'A L'Interieur

Inside (aka À l’intérieur) (2007) Directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. Starring Alysson Paradis, Béatrice Dalle, Nathalie Roussel.

Genuinely disturbing, poetic and precise, every cut, frame, shock, and thought fine-tuned to freak you out, Inside is a neo-horror near-masterpiece.

 …for any true fan of horror, Inside is a must-watch.

Inside is a textbook example of how to shock a disillusioned horror viewer like myself out of a mediocrity-induced coma.

It’s concrete proof that there is art to be found in the most horrific places.

I want to bow down and thank France for their glorious gift to us; the film which definitely cancels any doubt I’ve ever had in my mind that creativity is gone in these times.

I present to you the words of fools, the babble of the irrational, the ravings of lunatics. Nay, to accuse these writers of insanity is to offend the insane. These are the words of the deeply stupid.

Inside is a part of what Wikipedia calls the ‘New French Extremity‘ “wave” of films released during the last decade. These movies are, for the most part, spectacularly extreme and employ a gritty look inspired by other influential horror films from the 70s such as Last House on the Left and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I’ve had to play catch up on this horror sub-genre and from what I’ve seen so far, the films are a mixed bag. Some of them contain fantastic elements (the stunning, unpredictable roller coaster ride that is the first half of  Martyrs and Vincent Cassel’s performance in Sheitan) but are significantly flawed (the overreaching second half of Martyrs, and Sheitan is ultimately too disjointed). Haute Tension is well done but has an ending so predictable and ridiculous that it completely ruins the rest of the movie. Frontiere(s) and Ils are perhaps the most entertaining.

À l’intérieur is one of the worst and, because my fellow horror-loving brothers and sisters have lost their minds, this places me in a small minority.

Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is a young, pregnant woman who recently lost her husband in a car accident. She is at home on Christmas Eve, waiting for the planned delivery of her baby that is taking place at the hospital the next day. As she’s sitting around the house, grumpy and depressed, the doorbell rings and, in spite of Sarah’s initial actions being the right ones, her home is invaded by a nameless woman (Béatrice Dalle) intent on cutting open Sarah’s belly and taking the baby for herself. What follows is supposed to be a thrill ride of gore and suspense that is hard to give a crap about.

You may be surprised to hear that this is my second viewing of Inside. I watched it several years ago and disliked it then, baffled by the positive reviews. This year as I browsed lists of horror films from the last decade for some Halloween viewing, Inside popped up over and over again. Mountains of praise have been heaped upon this ludicrous film. It has made severalbest of decadehorror lists.  People are jazzed by it, dazzled by its gore and intensity. “Hmmm, what did I miss?” I wondered. I forgot what exactly I didn’t like about it so I thought I’d give it another try. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood before. Surely so many horror film lovers cannot be wrong… well, I was a fool. I should have stuck with my first impression. Instead I brought it to the home of a close friend of mine so we could watch the damned thing. He’ll probably never invite me back.

Inside aims for a Hitchcock-style thriller with barrels of gore and violence but replaces suspense with stupid. There are a couple of creepy moments early on but they quickly flit by just before the directors jam down the gas pedal, going from about 10 to 100. Sarah traps herself inside the bathroom and The Woman, who so easily infiltrated the home earlier, is inept at penetrating the flimsy door. And then random characters drop in throughout the night, all offered up by the filmmakers to be killed in horrifically bloody ways. How frustrating it must be for The Woman! Those damned screenwriters tossing throwaway characters at her, thwarting her from her goal. Well, at least they pad out the runtime. She never seems to flinch, though, gleefully killing one fresh bag of blood and meat after another.

And good god, these characters are stupid! Particularly the police, who are probably the dumbest cops I’ve ever seen. Their actions are engineered by the screenplay to keep them in Sarah’s home so that The Woman can pick them off. They struggle with trying to carry Sarah out of the bathroom (seriously, the Three Stooges would be able to get her out quicker), then they leave her behind to call for backup, then they come back… Boom! Dead cop. Shoulda brought your cell phone with you, dummy. Uh oh! The lights are out! Better head down… to the circuit breaker to get the lights back on! What?? No!! Why bother, fools, WHY? Just…. LEAVE! Arrrgghhh!

This is my main problem with Inside; it’s so obviously constructed to be shocking and edgy it loses sight of story and character. “Stop trying so hard!” I wanted to shout at the screen. I pictured a bunch of leering kids sitting in a bedroom and shouting out, “And then we’ll have THIS horrendous, bloody thing happen!” “Yeah! That’s great! And then THIS terrible, violent thing will happen, and then THIS!” “Yeah, and then we’ll end it with THIS awful sequence!” But with a lot more French accents and smoking. And this is a fine way to start writing a horror movie, I suppose, but maybe you should take the time to develop a decent plot and characters with realistic behavior.

Annoying sounds pepper the soundtrack– distorted buzzing, clunking and ticking meant to symbolize the terror and tension of the moments they accompany. The film has been commended for these annoying sounds, on top of everything else. I don’t give a damn what they’re supposed to represent, they’re obvious and stupid. In a film that wasn’t so half-baked, they might work but here I can see the filmmakers scratching their heads, wondering “How can we be different and edgy?” Which is the wrong question to ask. The right question is “How can we make a good movie that is different and edgy?” And then… learn how to make a good movie, for chrissakes!

It’s true that there is a limited audience for Inside. Its gory intensity won’t appeal to every moviegoer and not even to all fans of horror. If you’re of the “less is more” camp, there is nothing here for you. Several of the reviews praise Inside for little more than its gratuitous violence and gore, as if that elevates the movie by default. As someone who can enjoy the visceral thrill of violence in film and occasionally find a morbid beauty in blood and gore, my response is “who gives a shit?” Inside contains nothing nearly as creative or disturbing or artful than something you’d find in an Argento film and as for Hitchcock? Keep dreaming, pal. It’s well done gore, for sure, but it’s all there for the shock value and it’s boring as a result. A horror movie still has to work as a movie. The actions of the characters have to make sense. Otherwise, as my wise friend said after Inside ended, all you have is actors throwing blood at each other.

But an army of horror fans disagree, leaving me to wonder if I’m just a crotchety old man, finally too old for horror movies, shouting at those damned kids about how great things used to be and how awful this new load of crap is. Nah. I’ll be fine. I guess it’s time to shake it off and move on to the next thing.

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One Response to “‘Inside’ (À l’intérieur)”

  1. Michael K. Vaughan Says:

    Spot on review. I, too, am a bit baffled by the good reviews of this movie. It is true that it pulls no punches and shows no restraint. Perhaps that is its appeal. I am guessing that many who are reviewing this film are saturated by horror movies and no longer are bothered by huge lapses in logic or characters who behave in a way that no human being ever would. For me, the suspense was for the most part lost because the incredibly stupid actions of the characters made me lose that ever fragile suspension of disbelief.
    And to be honest, it did entertain me and it had its moments. But then, I too have watched hundreds of horror movies. Even the worst I somehow feel obligated to sit through. This was certainly no worse than some of them.

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