Okay, so let’s get something straight right away. I’m a big fan of French cinema, and in that vast and wonderfully diverse area of film exists the horror genre, and I would also say I’m a fan of French horror, with titles like Martyrs, Switchblade Romance, Frontier(s) and Calvaire, to name a few, all offering something different to the genre and interesting me, to differing levels. I was, then, interested when I heard about Inside, a 2007 film from French director-team Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (Livid). With comparisons made to the films I mentioned above, and it being hailed as a disturbing and brutal horror film, receiving praise from many circles of the horror spectrum, I was coloured intrigued. Well, some seven years after it was released I sat down to watch it, open minded and without the hype causing me to have too many expectations.
The story begins with a car accident, and we witness a visual of a baby in the womb being rattled around due to the accident. We then see a shot of a man and woman, covered in glass and blood. We move forward to a later time and the woman we saw in the accident is heavily pregnant and, according to the doctors she visits, merely a day or so away from giving birth. She is alone, having lost her partner and father of her baby in the accident we saw in the opening of the film. We then go to her house, and it’s Christmas Eve, and she’s alone. Her name is Sarah (Alysson Paradis) and she’s a photographer. This is where the film stays for the remainder of its time, in the home of Sarah. We witness a woman come to her door and when Sarah refuses to open the door to the stranger, the visitor begins to call Sarah by her name and recite information about Sarah’s life, causing her to freak out and ask the woman to leave. When the woman smashes Sarah’s window and stands staring in at her, Sarah takes some photographs and calls the police. A few moments later, the police arrive and check the area, finding nobody in sight and thus claiming the house to be safe, reassuring Sarah that the strange woman has left and that they would call in on her during the night. Sarah then develops some of the photographs and see’s that older pictures of her, such as a picture she took in a park, show the woman standing in the background, as if she had been following Sarah for a while. While Sarah is sleeping, we see that the woman is in the house and she wakes Sarah by attempting to stick scissors into her belly button, slashing her face with the blades as Sarah wakes, screaming. Locking herself in a nearby bathroom, Sarah is locked inside with nowhere to go, no phone to call for help, and no window to escape out of. The psychotic woman brandishing a pair of scissors cannot break the door down, so she waits outside. The film progresses as people visit the house, including the police, returning to check that Sarah is okay and friends of Sarah from work. Will she survive, who is the woman that is in her house trying to kill her, and can she keep her baby safe while she is so close to giving birth.
I’ll begin by talking about the performances in the film, because that is where I feel the muscle of the movie is, the strongest part. Paradis (Hasta manana) as Sarah is a convincing victim, showing fear and agony as she goes through a vicious and brutal ordeal at the hands of a stranger invading her home and her life. The stranger in question, the female antagonist of the film, is played brilliantly by Beatrice Dalle (Betty Blue). The strongest part of the film, Dalle plays sinister and deranged in such a frenzied and intense way, adding emotional substance to a part that could have been very cold and uniformed. The side characters, such as the police officers, Sarah’s mother, and her boss, aren’t given enough time to develop and are merely used as plot devices, moving the story along as our two leads react towards them.
The film is brutal. This, in my view, is why it has received so much press and got such a big reaction from people. It’s gory as hell, and sometimes to the point where I felt like I was being over-faced with it, like it was doing it’s outmost to shock and appal me. Now, it didn’t shock me, but it was a disgusting film visually. It’s graphic with its brutal scenes of violence and torture, and the use of a pregnant woman as the victim, again, seemed like a further attempt to cause controversy. We all know that controversy can help bring many eyes to a film, and sometimes that’s fine, but for me there just wasn’t enough going on here. The blood and guts were in abundance, and the film looks, in terms of style and cinematography, very good indeed, but it is literally a film about a woman trying not to get sliced to pieces by an attacker. I found myself wanting the film to end, not because the repulsion was too much, but because I was sick of seeing blood spilling from wounds. The decisions made by some of the people in the film too, especially the police officers, was a little too much for even me to handle. I know it’s a horror film and we shouldn’t look too deeply into it, but I felt myself becoming increasingly frustrated by the ridiculously bad decision making skills of the characters. There’s a knitting needle, and a gun, and it’s dark. There’s a woman killing people. What do you do? Oh, I’ll grab the needle and stare at a wall with my back to a wide open space, that’s what. No, stop it horror film, you’re doing it wrong.
It’s a hard film to enjoy, and for that reason I cannot see myself revisiting it. I don’t think it compares to the films that I’ve seen it put alongside in lists and reviews before, because while other films like Martyrs, for instance, had a lot to say, and did a lot of things, this is just a brutal slasher film that tries to be as horrific as it possibly can. Nothing more. Still, the gore is done very well and the performances are top notch, so if you’re into pure blood and guts for an hour and a half then I imagine you’ll dig this, I just want a little more out of my horror films, personally.