Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 22 minutes
MPAA Rating: NC-17 for Strong Bloody Violence, Gruesome and Disturbing Content, and Language
(French with English subtitles)
Directed by: Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo
Written by: Alexandre Bustillo
Starring: Alysson Paradis, Beatrice Dalle, Nathalie Roussel, Francois-Regis Marchasson & Jean-Baptiste Marchasson
Throughout the 2000s, French cinema underwent a radical movement known as “New French Extremity.” This cinematic movement featured filmmakers tackling dark, disturbing subject matter and then pushing it as far as they possibly could. The 2000s wave of transgressive cinema had plenty of dark dramas, but also left its mark with gore-soaked horror films. While the best of these French Extreme horror flicks is easily MARTYRS, I would argue that the second-best is home-invasion horror flick INSIDE. This movie is vicious. brutal and unforgettable.
After surviving a traumatic car accident that left her face scarred and her husband dead, very pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is miraculously one day away from giving birth to her baby. However, the mother-to-be soon finds herself in a night from hell when a crazy woman (Beatrice Dalle) breaks into her home. The menacing stranger wants the unborn baby inside of Sarah’s belly and will employ extreme means to get it. Her weapon of choice is a large, razor-sharp pair of scissors. A bloody struggle ensues between Sarah and the woman. As more people arrive at the house, more bodies begin to pile up.
To put it lightly, INSIDE is a brutal viewing experience. This is one of the goriest films I’ve sat through and also one of the most disturbing movies ever made. This is not happy entertainment, but it’s an intensely suspenseful and terrifying near-masterpiece of horror. You’ll likely want to avoid this film if you’re pregnant and I mean that in the nicest way possible. As a man who is incapable of carrying a child in my body, I was petrified and wincing at every cut/stab/slice. There’s one particular moment that always makes me grab my gut every single time I see it and it’s pure nightmare fuel. I can hardly imagine what an expecting mother might feel while watching this movie. INSIDE knows how to crawl under your skin and chill your blood. It does this for almost the entirety of its brief 82-minute running time.
The realistic gore and intense scenario wouldn’t hold up if there wasn’t a genuine talent behind the camera. Luckily, Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo crafted this film in a classy way that only elevates its vicious impact. The cinematography is professional and beautiful, even when a white bathroom becomes stained with crimson bodily fluid. Bustillo’s screenplay also invites logical excuses for people to enter the house and quickly escalates scenarios in a mostly believable fashion. There’s one shocker of a scene early-on that left me floored and showed this movie wasn’t messing around. INSIDE is here to brutalize its viewer and masterfully succeeds in doing so.
The two main performances belong to Alysson Paradis and Beatrice Dalle. Paradis serves as the bloodied and battered protagonist, who’s trying to stay alive and save the life of her unborn child. Though Paradis’s Sarah has understandable moments of shell-shock and tearful breakdowns, she also has badass heroine bits in which she fights back with whatever is around her. Beatrice Dalle is intimidating as the mysterious woman who wants to cut Sarah open. Dalle does menacing like nobody’s business and comes off like a ferocious animal in many scenes. The tension between Paradis and Dalle’s performances only further push the suspense to an almost unbearable level.
Though it’s beyond stellar in many ways, INSIDE has three hiccups that keep it from horrific perfection. The first of these are frequent scenes of a CGI baby in Sarah’s womb. One of these serves as the opening shot of the film and others occasionally makes their way into tense confrontations. These bits distracted from the live-action struggle at hand and didn’t look nearly as professional as the rest of the film. The second problem comes in the arrival of a cop and a criminal. While their initial introduction is solid, these two make ineptly idiotic mistakes like fumbling with a flashlight and searching for bandages…while they should be escorting Sarah straight out of the house. Finally, there’s one moment in the final 15 minutes that feels oddly out-of-place. I won’t spoil it, but you’ll know it when you see it.
Handful of flaws aside, INSIDE is one hell of a horror movie. This film doesn’t milk its darker-than-dark scenario purely for shock value, but is legitimately well made and builds a thick layer of suspense that is sure to make the viewer uneasy. INSIDE also goes to extremely nightmarish places that other scary movies wouldn’t dare touch. The final minutes will likely leave you stunned and are sure make a lasting impact on your movie memories. If you think you can handle it, I highly recommend INSIDE. Just be warned, this film isn’t for the faint of heart or those with weak stomachs.