Centerfold to French horror nu-waver-cum-2007-fest-favorite INSIDE is, well, a festival of gore the crimson of which you’ve likely not seen in a while. I am normally not wont to praise a film whose visual brutality takes precedent over story, but there is an adventurous wonderment to the tiers of horror in Bustillo and Maury’s opus of pre-natal terror. Each gag tops what cometh prior until the film reaches what must be a blood soaked saturation point, right? Wrong.
INSIDE has no saturation point, no boundary of what is or isn’t in good taste, as indicated by the opening digital shot of a peaceful, brimming-to-be-born baby in utero that then slams in to the camera as we hear the unmistakable sound of a car crashing. Cut to a few months later title card and we are caught up to speed. We learn Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is posed to give birth any day now and that her husband died in the car crash. That night brings a strange woman to Sarah’s door pleading to use her cell phone. The unseen femme on the other side of the door knows intimate details of Sarah’s life, of her deceased husband and of her looming baby.
The cops are called, the woman vanishes for a few moments, but soon returns. Entering the house by unknown means, creeping up to a sleeping Sarah’s room, rummaging through her things with a well played air of arrogance, as if this woman could care less if she is caught breaking in. It is a subtle detail, loudly going through someone’s things while they sleep down the hall, but a crucial one. And when La Femme finally brandishes an enormous pair of steel scissors, it becomes clear just how psychotic this broad is.
She wants Sarah’s baby. She needs it.
INSIDE is a brisk 83 minutes sporting a pounding sense of urgency. The bulk of the film’s events never leave Sarah’s domicile, but Bustillo’s script finds plenty of plausible reasons to bring new characters into the house. It is very much a duel between the seemingly motive-less La Femme and the victimized Sarah, who is the most hardcore pregnant lady ever captured on film (or, in this case, shot on digital), but there is always good reason to have someone else folded into the paper thin story and, of course, soon folded out in as most gruesome a manner as possible.
Mayhaps one reason I can rally behind this particular gore heavy centerpiece is that INSIDE, despite going leagues beyond, is never burdened with the air of being the much buzzed ‘torture porn’. There is no threat to the viewer, no self-stroking director behind the camera who sets up the torture of entirely innocent people just so we can see them get tortured. Don’t get me wrong, every one in INSIDE is innocent and what happens to them is Horrific with a capital H, but there is difference between the two I don’t seem capable to qualify at this time. Let’s just call it class.
When it isn’t exploding heads or performing tracheotomies with knitting needles, INSIDE is assaulting your ears with one of the most attacking scores to date. That, however, is not a compliment. The shrill sounds are an intriguing turn at first, but they jump track right quick. Effective, yes. Ideal, no.
The score, as it is called, is my only chief complaint with INSIDE. After all it does have a rather empty plot, making it merely good as opposed to great, so time has yet to tell how much ground it holds on repeat viewings. My gut tells me that INSIDE will be a generational flick, something the likes of which we haven’t seen with regularity since the ’80s. INSIDE is the kind of movie that older brothers warn their younger brothers about, who then go out and track down a copy for a middle school sleep over and proceed to have their juvenile minds blown. It is a shame it doesn’t exist in a giant VHS clamshell.
Oh, and on a personal note, I’m really disappointed that no one was strangled with an umbilical cord. Oh well, at least I can still write that into something.