“Inside” – A.J. Hakari

I have to admit, I’ve been a little disappointed with French horror in recent years. True, there’s not as much of a product glut as Japan’s whipped out, but those films that have emerged stateside (namely High Tension and Them) have come across more as false starts than the real deal, getting off to a stellar start before fizzling out with disappointing denouements. But after years of waiting for something to come along and really knock my socks off, the unrelentingly gruesome chiller Inside has arrived to do just that.

 

It’s Christmas time, and Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is mere days away from giving birth to her first child. Unfortunately, the occasion isn’t a wholly joyous one, as Sarah’s still trying to recover from her husband’s death four months prior. But as she’s soon to find out, those bad memories are about to take a back seat to a present-day horror. Just as Sarah hunkers in for the night, a mysterious woman (Béatrice Dalle) comes knocking, quickly revealing the vicious streak she brings with her. After a few minor harrassments, the mystery woman begins an all-out assault on Sarah, imprisoning her in her own home and swiftly doing in anyone who crosses her path. But what could this madwoman possibly want? The answer is simple but nonetheless terrifying: she’s hell-bent on claiming Sarah’s unborn child for her own.

 

Just like the aforementioned High Tension and Them, Inside bases itself on a very bare-bones premise: scared, pregnant lady versus insane, scissors-wielding lady. This briskly-paced feature comes with no hang-ups, add-ons, or anything that might in any way detract from the experience of being scared out of your wits. Inside is driven to be as pure of a horror film as possible. But what separates this flick from the other two I mentioned is that filmmakers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury actually came up with enough material to fit perfectly in line with the running time. Instead of copping out with a senseless twist ending or extending a nugget of a story idea way past its freshness, Inside sticks to its guns and presents a taut and intense story, set at just the right pace. The film maintains an atmosphere that’s bleak but not hopeless, drenching the film in darkness and blood but not wallowing around in depression for 82 uncomfortable (in a good way) minutes.

 

There’s sort of a grindhouse edge to the proceedings, a little voice telling you that the flick isn’t all high art and is just trying to see what disgusting stuff it can get away with. And let me tell you, Inside is twisted enough to disturb even the most hardcore of horror hounds. This isn’t just because of the variety of ways in which people perish (none of which I’m about to spoil) but because the simple story so much grabs your attention, you never know what’s coming next and are all the more surprised when somebody bites the big one. As the filmmakers mention on the DVD’s making-of feature, Inside is best described as a “horror-thriller,” having packed in the outlandish gore of the former with the suspenseful atmosphere of the latter. The performances are also spot-on, from Paradis as the tortured Sarah to Dalle as a psycho who takes cradle robbing to a whole new level.

 

Horror fans may get the feeling that Inside is too good to be true, that all of the sickening sights are just leading you closer and closer towards a bummer of an ending. But believe me when I say that aside from some distractingly dodgy CG, this flick hits all the right notes, never betraying its core concept or violating its own rules. As grim and lurid as Inside looks, this is as close to horror perfection as we’ve seen in a long time.

 

Rating: ★★★½

 

-A.J. Hakari

 

Read more of A.J.’s reviews at ReelTalk Movie Reviews, Classic Movie Guide, and Terror Tube.

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