Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury are part of the current movement for more realistic and extreme horror from France. Other films such as Them, Frontier(s) and Haute Tension show that there is more to French film output than lightweight comedies and dramas. Tapping into current events (Frontier(s) used the riots sparked by Le Pen's surprise success in the presidential election), they draw on the 'Banlieu' films by injecting realism and an almost documentary feel into extreme horror.
In Inside (À l'intérieur), a pregnant woman and her husband crash their car into another and it then flashes forwards four months to Christmas Eve where widowed Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is making arrangements with her doctor for the birth. Being so heavily pregnant, he advises they induce her the next day and she makes arrangements for a lift.
Relaxing at home, Sarah sees a figure in the shadows and a woman knocks on her door asking to use the phone. Suspicious, Sarah asks her to leave but she thinks the woman is hanging around outside so phones the police. They can't find anyone but say they'll check back later in the night. Reassured, she goes to bed but wakes up with a start when she notices a woman (Béatrice Dalle) standing over her with a large pair of scissors at her belly button with every intention of performing a makeshift caesarean section and taking the baby. Sarah manages to fight her off and taken refuge in the bathroom, but not before the woman has made a slight incision and slashed her face open.
This is only the beginning of the nightmare as people call and the woman seems very convincing and well-prepared to cope with any eventuality.
Though the black levels aren't as deep as they should be (or maybe I'm spoiled by watching films on Blu-ray Disc), the transfer is very good, with some slight grain, but has some superb special effects makeup and prosthetics work. If I had one reservation it would be the flashes to the CGI foetus which aren't as convincing as they perhaps could be, but look very good. This is certainly not a film for the squeamish and the violence and bloodletting ensure this.
The French DD 5.1 Surround track is excellent, with a terrific score and crystal clear dialogue. The subtitles are easy to read and free of errors and help non-Francophones to easily follow the film.
Aside from the theatrical trailer, all the disc contains is a Making-Of which is a fairly comprehensive featurette, running at about 50 minutes and covering just about all parts of the shoot from pre-production to wrapping. The concentration on the gore side is very revealing, showing how the more bloody effects were created and what the actors went through.
I like my more serious horror films to mean something, to be based in reality and reflect the social context in which they were made. As a photojournalist, Sarah has been covering the riots in the Banlieu (suburbs, the setting for La Haine) and, during her pregnancy, juggling the dangers of work with ensuring she gets to term safely. This all changes when, a matter of hours before she's due to give birth, 'the woman' comes calling.
Inside easily falls into the 'endurance' or 'ordeal' sub-genre, alongside films like Wolf Creek, The Ordeal (Calvaire) and Paradise Lost (Turistas) and easily shows that there is a strong masochistic element to watching horror films as it really does put you through the ringer. Key to this is the amazing performances by the two female leads, especially Béatrice Dalle, who's so calm and collected even when perpetrating such bloodshed and torture. She has a great foil in Alysson Paradis who spends most of the film unrecognisable under prosthetics and other makeup but is a tremendously resilient character and someone for whom the audience can root.
First time directors and writers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury (Bustillo takes the writing credit but it does seem to be a collaborative effort) really impress here with one of the more disturbing horror films of recent years. They are careful not to fall into any clichéd or conventional traps, creating soemthing that is not necessarily completely original (home invasion movies are a staple of the genre) but something fresh that will live with you for a long time.
If, like me, you're a little sick of the trend for remakes and other bland horror fare so want something to take you out of your comfort zone, this is really worth checking out. There are rumour of a Hollywood remake, but it would take a brave director to make this accessible for the American market whilst maintaining the edge of the original. In fact, don't bother with a remake - learn how to read subtitles and import the DVD of this fine film.