If ever there were a movie so drenched in graphic violence that it could basically reduce all others that came behind it in the New French Extremity genre it would be this one. Boy is this film nasty and unafraid to carry its premise to its unbelievable, horrifying conclusion. [Then again, most French movies in this vein jump straight into the abyss, but none — not even Martyrs — with this gusto.]
Inside (A l’intérieur) touches the topic of a home invasion in a scenario that is impossible to top. One night, a few months after the death of her husband in a freak accident, Sarah (Alysson Paradis), a young expectant mother about to give birth, receives a knock on the door. It is a woman whom she doesn’t know, who would like to make a cell phone call. Sarah, already a bit edgy, refuses, tells the woman to go to another house and make her call. However, the woman refuses. And when Sarah tells her that her husband is asleep in bed, the woman flatly informs her, “Your husband is dead, Sarah. Let me in.” [To that effect; I’m not translating the quote verbatim here.]
This “What the fuck?” moment is the one that arrives with a sense of horror and dread so dense my stomach curdled. Imagine, a woman, alone, everyone whom she knows, away or at least, out of reach. Now she has a potential intruder in her home. She does call the cops after taking a photograph of the weird woman. They assure her that she has nothing to fear and will be patrolling the area. Through a previous photo she had taken, Sarah comes to realize in a moment lifted right off of Antonioni’s Blow-Up that the woman has been stalking her. Partner directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo use the claustrophobic set of Sarah’s dimly lit apartment and the presence of an invisible menace to ratchet up the tension to eleven. Truly, even before the carnage starts, the set-up is edge-of-your-seat on steroids. You are literally frightened for Sarah and her unborn baby.
Once the movie takes flight, it is, like Beatrice Dalle’s banshee performance for the ages as the woman, virtually unstoppable, and I won’t discuss more of it because frankly, it has to be seen to be fully appreciated, or at least, acknowledged. Inside is every pregnant woman’s worst nightmare. The fact that fetal abduction is a horrific reality (and some of the real-life incidents make this fictitious one look like a bad acid trip) only enhances the movie’s conceit. As almost unwatchable as this movie can be, I give the directors their kudos for sticking to their guns and delivering a blood-drenched exercise in Giallo a la française and not allowing a drop of sunshine to glimmer through the darkness of their narrative. And while I’m at it, please avoid the American remake from 2015. While the remake got directed by Jaume Balagueró, and Spain is noted for its stylish horror films, it can’t hold a candle to this extremely visceral experience that is guaranteed to give you nightmares.