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This review is from: Inside (Unrated) (DVD)
Directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo's INSIDE (original title: À L'INTÉRIEUR) has proven once again that if anyone has their mutilated finger pressed firmly to the pulse of horror, it's the French. This scribe hasn't seen anything quite this cinematically dangerous since their countryman Gaspar Noé's gut-punch of a flick IRREVERISIBLE, and like that film, INSIDE proves to be a rollercoaster gone off the gore-drenched rails, as well as a film that, while paying homage to the slasher film, redefines the genre itself. Kudos to LA's Screamfest for helping expose this Euro masterpiece to the U.S. masses.
Written by Bustillo, INSIDE has an opening setup that is familiar enough to horror cineastes: A young married couple are involved in a horrific car accident on a rainy country lane, one which the husband doesn't survive. Four months later, his pregnant widow Sarah (portrayed with astounding commitment by actress and sister-in-law to Johnny Depp Alysson Paradis) is scheduled for induced labor. Still mourning the loss of her husband and in a disconnected emotional state, Sarah decides, much to the chagrin of her mother, to spend Christmas Eve alone in preparation for the following morning's birth. It is here where things shift gears following a simple knock on her door, and while savvy audiences will certainly ascertain the identity of the (soon-to-be malevolent) stranger (this scribe did, even before the visually stunning opening credits rolled by), it's the clever road of carnage leading up to--and after--the reveal that will keep those with strong stomachs in their seats, and perhaps drive those with lesser fortitude to a state of nausea.
Pure and simple, the conceit is that Sarah's visitor wants her unborn baby, and isn't content to wait for its natural birth; the intruder's pair of 10-inch shears prove undeniable testament to that. Portrayed with acute gravity by Beatrice Dalle and billed simply as "La Femme" (a nod to John Carpenter's "The Shape"?), this villainess is an altogether terrifying amalgamation of covetous, bloody and remorseless savagery.
More importantly, both women's emotional states and motivations ring true, and thus so does the narrative. However far Maury, Bustillo and producers Véran Frédiani and Franck Ribière push the envelope (and in fact break it), the proceedings, beyond one or two leaps of logic in the third act, carry the audience along effortlessly. There is something raw, familiar and human here, with each character's respective motivations nuanced and believable, and as a result the already red-lined suspense attains an intensity not seen in many years, with an ending that's entirely unpredictable and unquestionably grim.
Assisting considerably in the tension department are cinematographer Laurent Bares and composer Francois Eudes, who together lend an element of dreadful class to the flick, carrying the audience from the at-first womblike confines of Sarah's home to the charnel house it becomes. Bares channels Carpenter's approach to HALLOWEEN in his framing, utilizing negative space and expressionistic lighting to spectacular effect, while Eudes takes a cue from the minimalist synthesized score of Carpenter's classic and delivers an aural component that is at times lulling and at others entirely unnerving.
As for the carnage on display, makeup FX supervisor Jacques-Olivier Molon and visual FX overseers Rodolphe Guglielmi and Bourdonnay Judikael deliver the goods and then some. A self-induced tracheotomy, a partial decapitation by gunshot, an unsettling homage to David Lynch's BLUE VELVET and various burnings, bludgeonings and stabbings, as well as the pièce de résistance (which I won't give away, and must be seen to be believed) are all delivered with such organic viscera that it's nearly overwhelming. The French have apparently perfected the consistency and palate of stage blood; never before has arterial spray looked so damned...real (which is most likely why Dimension snapped it up for straight-to-DVD release via its genre-centric Extreme imprint; there's no way this flick would garner anything less than an NC-17 from the MPAA).
Vive la France!
- Sean Decker / Fangoria Magazine