Director: Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury
Producers: Frank Ribière, Vérane Frédiani
Writer: Alexandre Bustillo
Stars: Alysson Paradis, Béatrice Dalle
TRIGGER WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAKES MENTION OF BLOOD, THE DEATH OF AN UNBORN CHILD (FULL-TERM), AND A GRAPHIC DEATH BY GUNSHOT. IMAGES CONTAIN BLOOD. (As always, see this post’s tags for trigger warnings for the film itself.)
By the time Christmas Eve rolls around, photographer and young wife Sarah (Alysson Paradis) has lost everything—well, almost everything. In a grisly car crash four months previously, her husband, Matthieu died, and she and their unborn child barely escaped death themselves. Bitter, devastated Sarah insists on spending Christmas Eve alone, far from the celebrations that her mother, Louise, and her employer—and close friend—Jean-Pierre (François-Régis Marchasson), are hosting. However, not even antisocial Sarah can escape company this Christmas Eve … or the perverse invasion that follows—of her privacy, her home, her body.
INSIDE (Á L’INTÉRIEUR), after a brief portrayal of the scene of the crash and the opening credits, begins not only on Christmas Eve, but on the night before Sarah will give birth. (The obstetrician tells her that if she does not go into labor naturally, they will induce it on Christmas morning.) Sarah is utterly silent during her obstetric exam early Christmas Eve, plainly going through the motions. Her misery is reflected through her actions: in the park, waiting to meet Jean-Pierre, she is moved by the bittersweet sight of a family of three and, on an impulse, photographs them. Her mood is also reflected in the mise-en-scène—she lives in a gorgeous, gothic Parisian home, in a neighborhood that is noticeably deserted, as dark and moody as Sarah. (When she is speaking to a police officer later in the film, he remarks: “Pretty quiet around here for Christmas Eve,” and she replies: “That’s the kind of neighborhood this is.”) Her black cat roams the house, and his plaintive meow prophesies danger. One is almost unsurprised when things take a turn for the worse.
The stranger (Béatrice Dalle) who invades Sarah’s home that night has a horrifying objective: to steal Sarah’s baby from her by performing a crude C-section. The events that unfold, as you can imagine, are beyond disturbing, grotesque to the point of nausea. This is not a film for the casual viewer—it’s a gore flick through and through, frequently exploitative and downright nasty at every turn. Vomit foams from Sarah’s mouth. Blood drenches her clothing. A gunshot blasts someone’s brains into her face. These are well-crafted images—gore at its best—but ugly all the same. Imagery of imagined miscarriages proliferates, too—if this is a trigger for you, steer clear.
A gore flick is seldom praised the way that INSIDE was following its release. The rave reviews are well-deserved. The camerawork is stunning—tilted low angles disorient the viewer, while quick cuts depict the crazed, manic state of the stranger. The coloring, too, is lush—blood against white is a repeated contrast that pops from the screen, adding to the disconcerting realness of the film. An emphasis on diegetic sound, too—like the black cat’s meow—makes the film terribly life-like. There artistic misfires here and there that I felt marred this aspect of the film; for instance, the reactions of the fetus in Sarah’s womb are intercut occasionally, which is frankly weird and detracts from the intensely realistic aspect (though perhaps this is intentional). As for the hideously disturbing content, this indicates INSIDE’s place among the ranks of extremist French horror (see: James Quandt), a new cinematic wave that began in the mid-2000’s (and now continues, having expanded to include Spain, England, and Sweden).
Macabre, action-packed, and blessedly short—these are hallmarks of good gore (if, like me, you believe in the existence of such a thing) and INSIDE hits the mark in all of these ways. Of course, viewers who endure gore also endure exploitation and, for some, the exploitation of the abjection of pregnancy and childbirth will prove unbearable. Nonetheless, INSIDE presents a compelling interplay of the monstrous-feminine (see: Barbara Creed) and the popular fascination with motherhood—written with all of the intelligence of an excellent art horror film.
I’ve said a lot on the subject in the review; high points include Sarah’s nightmare and the film’s final image.
The disgust we feel in response to abjection: this kind of horror is the goal of gore. And, wow, was this film horrifying.
There’s a great deal of tension in the wait; the stranger lurks considerably before striking, an uncomfortable presence inside and outside the home.
The stranger’s knowledge and understanding of Sarah is arguably the most terrifying part of her appearance.
Artistically done, beautifully rendered—with only a few exceptions.