Studio: Vertical Entertainment
Director: Miguel Angel Vivas
Writer: Jaume Balaguero, Manu Diez, Miguel Angel Vivas
Producer: Adrian Guerra, Nuria Valls
Stars: Rachel Nichols, Laura Harring, Ben Temple, Gillian Apter, Andrea Tivadar, Craig Stevenson, Stany Coppet, Richard Felix
A pregnant widow is terrorized in her own home by a madwoman determined to steal the child from her womb.
Sensible reasons exist for why producers choose to remake certain movies. Sometimes they wish to contemporize the cast with popular personalities for maximum audience appeal (“Ocean’s Eleven”). Sometimes a creator envisions a novel way to redevelop themes or expand scope using new technology (John Carpenter’s “The Thing” or David Cronenberg’s “The Fly”). Sometimes a story is simply due for an update when the original no longer feels fresh (“Scarface” or “True Grit”).
Yet Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s 2007 thriller “Inside” (review here) is still so relatively young, there isn’t anything dated demanding a change to props, plot, costumes, etc. Their French-language film is also so conceptually straightforward, the only obvious reason to remake it at all is to flip its native tongue.
I enjoy (that’s not the right word, but you know what I mean) the original “Inside” and certainly appreciate its influence on extreme cinema. But I’m in no way married to it like diehard devotees are. Some of the film’s supporters are so smitten with its savagery that the very idea of altering it in any way is sacrilege, resulting in knee-jerk assertions that a remake can only suck no matter what. That’s narrow-minded.
I also don’t have the pet peeve about Western audiences being reticent to watch something subtitled. “No! You must see it in French!” people pointlessly insist. Simply put, movies in English attract wider audiences in North America, Australia, and the UK, which are huge markets. And if that results in more awareness of the foreign-language original, that’s a good thing. Fans should recognize these facts before hitting the instant anger button.
But what I can’t defend is simply swapping the language while doing little else to differentiate one from the other, “Van Santing” if you will. Or worse, depowering the source material into such a faded shadow of its former self, one wonders what drove anyone to do a diluted adaptation in the first place. That’s exactly what happens with the remake of “Inside.”
The premise stays the same. After surviving a violent car crash that kills her husband, pregnant Sarah is left alone over Christmas to wait out the impending birth of her baby. Then a strange woman, whom end credits identify as Madeleine, shows up at the door asking to use the phone. What she really wants is to take Sarah’s baby, even though it is still inside Sarah’s stomach. Madeleine’s determination and Sarah’s resilience set in motion a home invasion scenario certain to give any expectant mother waking nightmares for the rest of her term.
To say that “Inside” doesn’t operate on the same wicked wavelength as “À l'intérieur” would be an understatement. Like the “Martyrs” remake (review here) before it, “Inside” intentionally tones down the unrated ultraviolence that made its predecessor’s name. Spoken language aside, the original “Inside” and “Martyrs” (review here) have additionally niche appeal due to their notoriously crimson-soaked carnage that squeamish viewers can’t take. It’s understandable then that this new version aims to broaden appeal by dialing back on the bloodbaths.
What isn’t acceptable is substituting splatter with humdrum horror. Where the French film fostered nail-biting tension from scissors going into a pregnant stomach, the English remake summons supposed suspense by using scissors to cut gauze pinning Sarah to a door. Such setups are more tepid than terrifying, even without factoring how far the previous film willfully went.
Confused over what inclusions are critical, “Inside” sucks out shocks to make room for mundane inserts. Is it really important to watch Madeleine wash her hands in preparation of extracting Sarah’s baby? Another shot shows Sarah placing house keys in the mailbox for her mother after already mentioning the intended action on the phone. Wouldn’t it be scarier if Madeleine just appeared in a lightning flash standing over Sarah’s bed, without telling us in advance how she got in?
Little changes make little sense. Since the accident, Sarah now wears a hearing aid. Its primary purpose appears to be explaining why Sarah can’t hear critical noises, because she has a habit of turning it down or taking it off whenever the script needs a convenient contrivance.
Bigger changes influence other arcs awkwardly, such as including an action that makes Sarah more culpable for the car accident, making Madeleine’s motivation partly rational. If you dislike how “Inside” alters character compositions and resulting outcomes, you’ll really hate the melodramatic Hollywood ending icing the pedestrian cake.
The plot was largely implausible the first time around, but the flavorless presentation here makes it stand out even more. It’s absurd that this average middle-aged woman is somehow the Jason Bourne of stealth infiltration, outmaneuvering multiple men and women inside multiple locations despite making up most of it as she goes along. Without the terrifying trauma and visceral violence to energize the frightening fantasy, mounting a mass murder spree to achieve an otherwise simple goal reads as more ridiculous than before.
“Inside” might be “fine enough” for a formulaic film if it were a standalone movie. But someone with no qualms about subtitles or unflinching gore has no reason to drive down this dull detour when a bolder route splits at the same fork. Stripping out the slaughter isn’t the issue. Replacing it with routine is.
Review Score: 45