It's tough to put into words the combination of reactions that came to me after experiencing the French horror/thriller Inside (a.k.a. À l'intérieur). The tale of a nine-months-pregnant widow being mercilessly tortured and stalked by a crazed woman out to literally steal the baby from her womb, it's certainly not an easy watch.
Directed by Alexandro Bustillo and Julien Maury (recently booted from the Hellraiser remake), Inside is the kind of movie that makes you question why you wanted to see it in the first place. It would be easy to dismiss it as just another depressing and sadistic piece of torture porn, but that's not really what it is. I wouldn't categorize it with garbage like Hostel and Saw III, which truly earn their pornography tag by making titillation through explicit violence their primary goal.
That's not what Inside is all about. It is disturbingly graphic, and shatters horror film taboos left and right, but I can honestly say that many of the depictions of violence were not gratuitous, in that they served a story and a theme that was every bit as unsettling, if not moreso. They are not there for their own sake.
Inside is a very well-made movie, with excellent photography by Laurent Barès, a riveting score by François Eudes (sound designer for the Hills Have Eyes remake), and a constantly building and expertly constructed aura of suspense. It's two main leads, newcomer Alysson Paradis as victim Sarah and tenured French leading lady Béatrice Dalle as the nameless antagonist, both turn in powerful performaces in roles quite rare for films of this kind.
All this quality was enough to distract me from the overall unsavoriness of the movie itself, as well as from some its noteable flaws. There are several gaping holes in logic and lapses in believability. There's also the problem of a paper-thin plot that is supported mainly by the constant influx of fresh victims, much like the classic slasher movie formula. And then there's the sporadic CGI, which, while ambitious, is enough to take you out of the movie in parts.
But as my wife so succinctly said to me as the credits rolled, "There are a lot of people who wouldn't be able to watch this movie." As a parent and someone who has vicariously experienced pregnancy, I perceived that the difficulty I had with it might not be as strong for someone who had not experienced those things. Conversely, for many women of a particularly sensitive nature, I could see this picture provoking nothing but disgust and contempt.
After seeing Inside, I found myself doing what I usually do after seeing a movie that has disturbed me--watching the special features, almost as a way of proving to myself on a subconscious level that it never really happened, that these people are just actors and everyone is fine. And as good a movie as it is, I really question its rewatchability. I, for one, cannot imagine subjecting myself to it again.
Complex reactions for a thematically complex film. At its heart, Inside is a movie about loss and what it can do to us, what we allow it to do to us. It's not fun, and I don't know if I would even use the word "enjoyable". But it is very intriguing, and well worth a look.
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