Sunday, June 01, 2008

Inside (2007)

Picked up and then dumped direct-to-video as a "Dimension EXTREME" title by the Weinstein Company, this French horror movie has gotten a lot of acclaim from reviewers as a modern classic along the lines of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween; well, folks, I think it's good but I don't think it's quite that good.

Set on Christmas Eve, Inside gives us the very pregnant Sarah (Allyson Paradis), widowed after a recent car accident, sitting around, glum, waiting to give birth. Her lonely little world is broken up by an anonymous Woman (Beatrice Dalle) who, after a little stalking, moves into home invasion and assault with a pair of scissors to Sarah's navel. From that point it's like Die Hard in the womb, as The Woman announces her intention to steal the baby right from Sarah's still-warm body. A variety of characters who drop by to check on the pregnant Sarah wind up (of course) as statistics until it's only the two women left, destroying each other for survival and motherhood.

Like the other recent French horror movies Haute Tension and Ils (Them), Inside has plenty of suspense, action, and gore, but not a huge amount of substance underlying the carnage. There's some psychologizing, as we learn (SPOILERS!) that The Woman was the driver of the other car that killed Sarah's husband, and lost her own baby in the process, and thus has been waiting patiently until Sarah could come to full term for her revenge. But neither character is really developed beyond their archetypes. I like Inside, but in a lot of ways it feels like an exercise to me - made by filmmakers primarily interested in pushing the envelope of gore and intimate brutality (knife to the face, check; exploding head, check; on-camera Caesarian, check). Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's a little inherently limiting.

Basically, what separates this movie, for me, from the classics mentioned above or similar movies like Basket Case or Audition, is the poetry of horror, the ability to really dig deep into these terrible situations with empathy and emotion and pull resonant imagery out of them. Inside gets partway there but feels too impersonal to me, with a dud of an ending that I saw coming, to be considered a modern classic. Still, for its suspense and the high ugh-factor, it's recommended.



Craig Kennedy said...

Hmmm...this one sounds familiar. Did it play at Sundance or SXSW or something?

Jeff McMahon said...

According to IMDB it played at Cannes, Toronto, and Screamfest. So there you go.