I’m very late to the party here, but I’ve never been shy about jumping on a bandwagon (if I might so mix my metaphors), especially one as spectacularly kitted out as this one, so allow me to add my voice to the legion who are chanting the praises of Inside (French title: A l’intérieur). Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, this brutally effective piece is yet further evidence that the creative vanguard of the horror film has shifted from Asia to French-speaking Europe.
In the wake of such merciless pieces as High Tension and the Belgian Calvaire comes this even more unforgiving film. Alysson Paradis has just lost her husband in a car accident that miraculously spared her unborn child. It’s Christmas Eve, the Paris suburbs are ablaze with riots, and Paradis is going to be induced the following day. She returns home from her doctor’s appointment, and is just settling down when the doorbell rings. A strange woman (Betty Blue’s Béatrice Dalle) asks to come in to use the phone. When Paradis, justifiably nervous, turns her down, Dalle calls her by name and demands to be let in. And so the siege begins. Before long, Dalle has made her way into the house. Her goal: to slice open Paradis’ belly and steal the child.
The premise is gruesome enough, and the grue kicks into high gear as various characters arrive to check on Paradis, only to be dispatched in extremely messy, and often very startling fashion. This is the classic slasher-in-the-house storyline taken to the most unsettling extreme. The film never, ever, ever backs down, and sees its terrible logic through all the way, going far further than many a horror fan would likely want to go. The killings are violent and staged in the most startling manner possible (one made me yell for the first time in I don’t know how many years). And there is an emotional weight to the events that makes anything in the Saw or Hostel franchises look very pale and wan indeed.
Much of the film’s power is thanks to Dalle’s powerhouse performance. This is not to take anything away from Paradis, who is magnificent. But Dalle invests her villain with real pathos and tragedy. The result is a monster simultaneously human and demonic. There is something in her that is still recognizable (I’m not sure if I dare say “sympathetic,” and I’m not sure if I dare not). But she is also one of the most completely terrifying screen psychos EVER. When the other characters are gazing about with fear, wondering where Dalle is, we share their fear in its every nuance.
I’m burbling, but with good reason. This is a film that put me through the ropes, and I loved every minute of it. This is unbelievably vital and exciting horror art, the kind of exhausting, disturbing, but exciting experience that comes along but rarely. See it and wince.