April 16, 2008

DVD Review: Inside

This film is being brought to American audiences courtesy of Dimension Extreme, the horror specialty label arm of The Weinstein Company and distributed the Genuis Products. Is it me, or does it seem like each film (DVD or theatrical) has more and more studio tags added to them? Anyway, with regards to the copany tag, I have been burned by films being labeled "extreme" and other such terms that have been appropriated by marketing committees all around Hollywood. So, I had little reason to believe that Inside would be truly "extreme" enough to genuinely deserve the label emblazoned above the logo. As a test, I gave the film to my father for a preview run; see how he reacted. Now, he is a horror fan, not quite to the level that I am, but he enjoys a good gore fest and was left unfazed by Cannibal Holocaust (a film that haunted me for weeks). This could prove to be an interesting test.

Off my father went, pulled out his laptop, slapped on his headphones and pressed play. As he watched, I left the room, undoubtedly working on another review (not sure which one). Occasionally I would step out of my cave to try and gauge how the viewing was going. On more than one occasion I would catch him grimacing with a chuckle, as if shocked by what he saw. Once the viewing was over, I asked him how it was, his reaction told me everything I needed to know. With a small gasp, nod of the head, and half smile he said it was rough. I asked him if it was good, he could not answer that, but I already knew the answer, it had to be yes. Yes, it is a good movie, he is glad he saw it, but thought it would be worth my time to view it before putting his final stamp on it. How could I refuse? I mean, I already planned on watching it, but my father's reactions made me look forward to it even more. Perhaps it will live up to the "Dimension Extreme" label, unlike, say, Buried Alive.

Inside opens like no other film I have ever seen, but to get to that, you have to see the cover depicting a pregnant belly, with a barely visible unborn child, while a pair of scissors hover dangerously above, not to mention the blood splatter. Now, the first scene of the film takes place inside the womb, a still forming child is front and center. You hear muffled voices followed by screeching tires, a crash, and the child slams against the womb wall with an obviously pained expression. I have to say it is quite the opening, daring and unique. As we cut to the outside, a brutal car accident is revealed, with our central character, a pregnant woman named Sarah (Alysson Paradis), bloodied and injured, in a badly damaged car.

Following the credits we catch back up with Sarah four months later, Christmas is approaching, a holiday shared with her due date. Sarah is a shell of a person. After losing her husband (boyfriend? It is not made clear) she has lost that zest for life, not that she wants to die, but she is clearly not happy. Anyway, she is going about her final plans for going to the hospital for the delivery before settling in for an evening alone. This is where it all begins to go sideways.

A woman shows up on Sarah's doorstep asking for help, claiming that her car broke down. Sarah doesn't buy it for a moment, but then the woman reveals she knows a lot about her. What follows is an escalating level of violence, insanity and blood. This is not going to be a good night for Sarah, as this woman reveals she is after the baby and will let nothing stand in her way.

Doesn't sound all that extreme, does it? Don't be fooled, this is no holds barred fight to the death. There is a mounting tension and insane bloodshed that will get inside your head and put you on the edge of your seat. The unnamed assailant never stops, revealing her unparalleled insanity, heaven help anyone who gets between her and Sarah.

Are there films that are more violent, disturbing, and gory? Sure. However, this low-budget debut from writer/directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury is highly effective and demonstrates what true horror vision is like.

Yes, the story is simple, but this is not truly about the story, there is no need for twists. Inside is all about the atmosphere. This movie grabs you by the throat and does not let go until the final iconic moment that is sure to stick in your mind long after you have pressed the stop button.

This is a brutal affair; it is genuinely disturbing and is completely focused on telling a tale of terror that gets under your skin. There is something about the central character that immediately draws you in. It is something int he vulnerability of a pregnant woman. She is alone and damaged by the loss of her loved one, and here she is being set upon by a woman that is pure evil.

It is not an unrealistic film, sure some of it may be a stretch, and some of the characters may do stupid things from time to time, but it feels genuine, it feels real. That is what truly matters, tone and feel. Oh yes, the blood matters too, there is nothing like some well done arterial spray.

Beyond the blood and the vulnerable lead character, this movie is beautifully shot. There are some nicely designed shots with extraordinary use of shadows and angles. It may be a low budget film, but everyone involved did a wonderful job to make it look right.

Not to be left out, the acting is first rate. Alysson Paradis plays the terror perfectly; there is no way that you will not feel for her in this situation. On the flip side, you will absolutely despise Beatrice Dalle, her psychotic woman is a terrifying screen villain.

What else can I say? This is not for the faint of heart, this is not those looking to have a "good" time. This is a disturbing movie that will stay with you. If you are a fan of horror and like being disturbed, do yourself a favor, pick up a copy of Inside. You will not be disappointed.

Audio/Video. The soundtrack is presented in both the original French and an English dub; both are 5.1 surround mixes. The original language is the only way to go, but the dub isn't half bad. The quality is first rate. The video is anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen and looks very good, not at the level of a big budget Hollywood film, yet it still provides a good level of detail and there are no signs of defects.

Extras. The main extra is a fifty minute making-of featurette that contains interviews with all of the major players and includes footage from the shoot and plenty of information regarding its development. There is also the original theatrical trailer.

Bottomline. This caught me by surprise. Following my father's reaction I had some hope, and boy did it deliver. The buckets of blood, the shocking violence, and the manner in which it was able to affect me; it is unlike any American horror film I have seen in some time. Inside definitely earns its "extreme" label.

Highly Recommended.


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