Studio: Dimension Extreme
Director: Julien Maury, Alexandre Bustillo
Writer: Alexandre Bustillo
Producer: Verane Frediani, Franck Ribiere
Stars: Beatrice Dalle, Alysson Paradis, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Francois-Regis Marchasson, Nathalie Roussel, Aymen Saidi
A pregnant woman is terrorized in her own home by a madwoman determined to remove the child from her womb.
“Inside” is immediately provocative when it opens on a camera perspective looking at a baby in the womb as his mother is jolted by the impact of a fatal car collision. The unborn infant winces, a puff of blood melts with amniotic fluid, and in just sixty seconds, “Inside” sets its tone as a stylishly bloody mix of unflinching realism and creative cinematic fantasy.
Mathieu does not survive the accident, but his pregnant wife Sarah does. Four months later on the eve of her due date, Sarah is still a gloomy wreck committed to making sure her mother, her boss, and a random nurse in a hospital hallway know just how much of a grump she really is. Sarah has certainly suffered a multifaceted tragedy, but a dollop of perseverant cheer would help any rally to pile on further compassion for her plight.
There isn’t much time to be turned off by her unfriendly demeanor, however. While home alone, a knock at Sarah’s door brings an unidentified woman asking to use the phone. Sarah is rightfully wary, and becomes even more so when the woman reveals how much she inexplicably knows about Sarah and the bump in her belly. Though making her presence known is only the opening salvo in this shadowy stalker’s frightening plan to forcibly separate Sarah from her child, by any means necessary.
There is no question that “Inside” grabs its audience by the throat and refuses to ever loosen its death grip. With production design, sound, and cinematography carefully developed for teeth-clenching mood, co-directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo craft an exquisite horror show of sensational sights featuring horrors both eye-popping and eye-covering.
The film captures a giallo feel with the way it finds beauty in blood through excessive crimson fountains that are simultaneously grotesque and alluring. Despite how much of it there is, the pervasive brutality remains shocking without being exploitive. Admittedly, that point can be argued by those who see it a different way. However, even though Maury and Bustillo deliberately go over the top, the way they hook violence and gore into artistic intrigue makes it read as creative boundary pushing as opposed to shock purely for shock’s sake. The point is to make the viewer uncomfortable, and “Inside” definitely accomplishes this goal.
As brutally effective as “Inside” is, the reason I dock points and grade it lower than other genre film enthusiasts is because the only thing “Inside” has more of than blood-soaked terror is senseless character actions. While “Inside” does exemplify unrivalled home invasion horror, it also epitomizes “why would they do that?” behavior.
The plot has limited potential. “Inside” makes the most of it and then some, although there is really only so long you can have two people play cat and mouse and still have it be a compelling story. So the script introduces a half-dozen additional people to gum up the works, with mixed results on the plausibility of the proceedings.
Sarah’s mother arrives at the house to check on her daughter. She finds a man and a woman she doesn’t recognize in the home, immediately suspects something is wrong, yet decides to search silently for her daughter, despite having to walk through a bloody hallway to do so. This naturally gives Sarah the perfect opportunity to stab mom in the neck after hastily assuming she is the intruder sneaking up on her. Can you recall an instance when your own mother ever looked for you or was concerned that you might be in trouble and she didn’t yell out your name? Why tiptoe about like a thief in the night?
At the same time, Sarah’s boss realizes that the woman he is speaking to is the not the person she pretends to be. She is actually the stalker Sarah called him about that prompted him to come over in the first place. So what does he do? He turns his back on her completely to go upstairs, and it goes without saying what that gets him in the end. No command in the woman’s direction to stay right where she is while you phone the police first?
There is also no getting around the fact that the woman’s plan is incredibly stupid. She has waited this long to take Sarah’s child. Why not wait one more day and kidnap the baby after it is born? My guess is that kidnapping a live baby from a single mother has to be less of a challenge than taking it right from the womb. It is also silly that the first person who gets in her way, Sarah’s boss, makes a move to voluntarily remove himself from the picture, yet she convinces him to stay for drinks instead. The woman’s behavior is easier to forgive as being related to lost marbles, but there has to be a way to kidnap a child that doesn’t involve the additional effort of killing seven people first.
Another movie and the dimwittedness would be too maddening to overlook. But “Inside” gets more mileage out of how maddening it makes the mystery, and that adds to the excitement. The woman in black is a great villainess. Knowing nothing about her motives makes her a compelling antagonist to the point where you want her to succeed to some degree. If she comes out on top, there may finally be a revelation regarding why she is there. If she dies before that happens, you may never hear an explanation, and that might be a greater tragedy for the audience than the physical trauma is for Sarah.
The bottom line is that “Inside” is a high-tension experience daring you not to squirm as scissors pierce a navel or needles stab into hands. Without a doubt, nailbiting tension is the movie’s stock-in-trade. Yet underneath that violence lies an engaging theme about not knowing how much you want something until someone tries taking it from you.
NOTE: The film's French title is "À l'intérieur."
Review Score: 75