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Friday, March 26, 2010

Retrospective - 'Inside' (À l'intérieur) 2007

How do I recommend this film? It is quite possibly one of the most shocking and downright disturbing films of recent years. Its blood soaked hands possitively burst out of the screen and grab you by the throat such is its effect. It is a film that stays with you long after you see it. Many of you will be sickend by its gore and violence. Many of you will simply not be able to watch it. How then, can I rate this so high and proclaim it as one of the best horror movies of the last decade? Of course, someone telling you 'you won't be able to take it', only makes most people want to see something even more. Just don't say I didn't warn you. 'Inside' was initially released in its native France, very surprisingly, in 2007. So why am I reviewing it now? Well part of this blog is to provide information about films that you may or may not have heard of. So while a lot of you probably have not seen this, I can safely and one hundred per cent say that you have never seen anything quite like this before.

The film is set on Christmas Eve. Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is heavily pregnant. She is still recovering (physically and emotionally) from the death of her husband only 4 months before. She is to have an induced labour the next day and is understandably, quite anxious about it. However, this is all before a mysterious woman (Beatrice Dalle) comes knocking late in the night and refuses to go away. You see, this strange lady wants Sarahs child, and will stop at nothing to get it. This film is incredibly stripped down. There is something so simplistic about a heavily pregnant woman in such peril, I'm surprised that other films have not taken advantage of it before; tension is a given with it. And what tension. This begins almost instantly with such nerve shredding terror, and does not let up for its entire running time. You simply have no idea where this film will go next, such is its visceral rawness. And the places it takes you, well it will simply be far too much for some. Which brings me to my next point. The violence.

I am a fan of horror. While I have reviewed a few here before, I believe that the good ones are very far and few between. Before viewing this film, I had some preconceived notions about what the genre should feature. Less is always more, the lower the budget the better and under no circumstances, should the film ever rely on gore. This film gloriously tears up any ideas I previously had about it. It is easily one of the most vicious films I have ever seen. It begins quite violently and gets more and more over the top gory as it goes on. Previous reliance on gore used to be at the cost of tension, I believed. Here it enhances it. Before the film is over you are left watching through fingers at disbelief at the carnage. Why is this though? When watching it, I found myself torn in whether I actually liked the film or not. I had been advised on the similarly violent 2008 gallic-horror 'Martyrs' before I watched 'Inside'. These are quite similar films and yet having such conflicting opinions for the two is quite odd. That the former had received very positive praise from critics and that also in my opinion, you have to seek out the best horrors yourself, I eagerly checked out it out. 'Martyrs' was, for me a sleazy exercise in shock tactics. Centering on the dreaded 'torture-porn' sub-genre, it offered me next to nothing. Shocking, just for the sake of it. 'Inside', is quite possibly, more violent and yet affected me so much more. I can't quite pin-point where and why my opinions differ on the two films. And with this escalation of screen violence, where does this leave violence in movies to go and what can be acceptable for audiences?

So why then, is this film so good? Well it is shot beautifully. First time directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury ensure every scene carries a sense of menace, and the pacing of it is impeccable. It's eerie use of primary colours recall a sense of the 70's classic 'Susperia' along with its soundtrack, enhancing the shocks greatly. Its relentless assault on the senses is due to its pacy editing. For such a low budget film, it looks great. Make-up and many of its special effects are top class. So while it is very technically proficient, why does it carry such an emotional punch? This could be down to its two female leads. Both are played with great devotion and conviction in their parts. Dalle cuts a very imposing figure in her gothic, black dress and Paradis must be applauded for receiving quite possibly, the most punishment any character has gone through in a film in recent memory. 'Home invasion' films are unnerving simply by what they stand for. Our home is the one place we feel safe and can relax. Add in the very primal fear of pregnancy and you have ready made effective themes for the audience to relate to. The house is the one place Sarah is safe; the womb is the only place her unborn child is safe. We are already rooting for Sarah from the start just for the terrifying predicament she finds herself in. It is ambiguous in all the right places (is the 'Woman' a real, or supernatural presence?) and all characters carry just the right shades of grey to them; Sarah already blames the death of her husband on her unborn child, so consequently, does she want to fight as hard for her, and its survival?

Gore aside, this film is incredibly tense. Its mayhem and carnage is well handled, but were it not for its eerie unpredictability, it would not have near the effect it does. It is very, very scary. Minor criticisms center on some comically inept and stupid police officers added to the mix, for no other reason it seems, than to up the body count. Hopefully, you will be too wrapped up in the film to notice, but they are good examples of characters that 'live in the film world' and do certains things that will have some people screaming at the screen in disbelief. It also becomes almost too blood soaked by the climax. This for me did not take away any of the movies enjoyment. Come the end, you will have been through an experience like no other. Some may not have liked what you have seen, but one thing is for certain, you will not be able to shake this films effect on you.

Verdict: 85%

An stunning achievement in modern horror. If you find yourself jaded by the genre, then this film is for you. Most people will be put off by the endless and shocking violence, but when it is handled as well as this, you cannot fight the primal effect it has on the viewer. I urge you to seek it out, wherever you can find it.


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