If you walked into a place that sold DVDs and saw Inside your first instinct would probably be, “What’s this piece of shit?” The U.S. release looks like another one of those throwaway Fangoria Frightfest or After Dark Horrorfest DVDs (in this case “Dimension Extreme”). Some cheap or obscure release with a gory cover and a forgettable title. Though look at the French poster and you’ll think you’re looking at an art film. In reality, Inside is somewhere in between. It has the violence the U.S. cover promises but with more emotional drive than you’d expect.
The film opens with the burning wreckage of a grisly head-on collision between two cars. Sarah Scarangelo (Alysson Paradis) is the soul survivor of the incident, unless you count the unborn child in her womb, and tragically loses her husband. Four months later on Christmas Eve, Sarah finds out her little bundle of joy is due the next day, though there’s isn’t much else in her life worth celebrating. Sarah’s mother and boss try to reach out to her but Sarah decides to spend the holiday by herself… Big mistake! Later that night, a mysterious woman (Beatrice Dalle) begins to stalk Sarah at her home. Sarah quickly realizes that it is not her that the woman is after, but her unborn child. What follows is a grisly game of cat-and-mouse over the course of one very unhappy holiday.
Inside is an incredibly visceral (in more than one way) film but also very stylistic. Sarah has many contemplative moments that are excellently captured to drive home an artistic or emotional response. The atmosphere is heightened by a sharp cinematic eye and brooding John Carpenter-ish style score for a full experience. The storytelling is simple but builds to a clever conclusion, well sort of. The ending goes a little further into the abstract then I would have liked but it doesn’t hurt the film too severely. The bigger concern is that Inside does drag in a few spots.
Inside is often grouped into a category of film’s referred to as “New Wave French Horror”. These films tend to exhibit extreme violence but with a stronger artistic sensibility. The film High Tension which I also reviewed this month is another example. Frankly, Inside is miles above High Tension in artistic and emotional impact. Why High Tension director Alexander Aja has been succesfull and not Inside directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo is beyond me. Still, the die-hards know which is better. Inside not only received positive reviews but is often considered one of the best horror films of the decade.