Dir. Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury (2007)
A young widow who is set to give birth on Christmas is stalked by a woman who wants her baby and will stop at nothing to take it from her.
I'm a slasher guy, a fact that I've never kept secret from you fine folks, but perhaps my second favorite "genre" in all of horror is New French Extremity. The movies are just so brutally realistic, so carelessly nihilistic that they often shock you to your core, pulling no punches in an effort to make their audience question the very idea of happiness. The movies are wild, varying in scope from critiquing the metaphysical nature of the universe and God to the evils that lie within the hearts of all mankind. One of the first that I ever came across, which up until now was missing its rightful place on the site, is Inside, a film about a pregnant woman who has recently lost her husband in a car crash and finds herself in a desperate fight for survival against a woman who wants to take her baby for herself.
Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is distraught after the death of her husband in a car crash on Christmas Eve, and she's preparing to make a trip to the hospital to deliver the overdue baby the following day. While at the hospital, she runs into a creepy woman (Béatrice Dalle) who is dressed like a nurse that tells her the story of her own pregnancy, a long and difficult ordeal that eventually resulted in the birth of a stillborn child. After she returns home, she finds the woman at her door, and things eventually escalate to a home invasion with one goal in mind: to get that baby out of her by any means necessary. As Sarah fights for the survival of herself and her unborn child, she must struggle with the emotional toll the day's events have wrought and fight with everything she has to make it through the night.
The New French Extremity is known for brutal movies, so it almost goes without saying that Inside contains more brutal violence than you might expect. The concept of violence to an unborn baby is taboo, and the French filmmakers are all about breaking those social mores and pushing boundaries whenever they can. The moments where you can't believe the filmmakers "went there" are incredible, brutal beyond reason and just jaw-droppingly bonkers. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury do an incredible job of setting up all the pins before they knock them disastrously down, upping the body count cleverly in what could have otherwise been a one-on-one cat-and-mouse home invasion flick. There are so many shocking scenes of violence that it's hard to even pick the most jarring, with several contenders for "most extreme moment" coming within just the last half of the film.
There are a few things about the movie that don't work, however. The digital effects are dated as hell, with the multiple shots of the fetus inside Sarah's body looking cartoonish at times and some of the more dreamlike sequences perhaps best left on the cutting room floor. It's a simple premise, and while the interesting use of the police and Sarah's family is a great way to pump up the kills, it does at times feel contrived or unrealistic that one woman would have this many people inside of her house during one particularly fateful night. If you're not a fan of nihilistic movies, you will likely be unimpressed by the film as a whole, because there's very little rhyme or reason to most of the events that occur, serving just to march forwards until the inevitable, gory conclusion.
That said, the actual gore effects are phenomenal. It's rare that you see gore this well-done in a modern movie outside of ones that serve more as an effects real, like the August Underground films, or in super indie films that are simply striving to gross their audiences out. Critics of the film could easily call some of the more disturbing scenes cruel, and they'd have a point. However, the entire intent of the film is to show how cruel such a situation could be were it to really happen. And make no mistake, crimes like this certainly have happened in real life. The ability to put the mayhem on-screen, never flinching away from the more disturbing and deranged moments, is a credit to Bustillo and Maury. Most filmmakers wouldn't have nearly the balls to do what they've done with this film.
The actresses in the film are also incredible, with Paradis delivering an incredibly nuanced performance and Dalle doing a phenomal job as the unhinged La femme. The fact that they didn't even give the woman a name, and that she was just "the woman," is a fantastic idea, allowing her to play the role in complete seriousness without ever personifying her as a character beyond being someone who was willing to do anything to get what she wanted. Dalle is excellent in this role, an unstoppable force driven by the same motherly instincts that her prey is struggling to manifest on her own. The two combined are arguably the best pair in all of New French Extremity, and they would make the movie worth watching even if it wasn't for the horrific and savage violence that permeates the film.
I have Inside listed at #3 on my Top 10 New French Extremity list, and it's a well deserved ranking. The fact that the violence takes place on Christmas Eve, however, makes it a perfect fit for your holiday viewing schedule as well. While I generally like to close out Christmas with happier fare, we shall leave that until tomorrow, wringing every last ounce of joy on Christmas Eve by focusing on one of the most brutal horror movies ever made. While Inside won't fit on everyone's holiday playlist, and it's definitely not for those with weak stomachs (or pregnant ones), it's an excellent movie that deserves far more love than it has already received. If you're down to watch a movie that will make you question humanity, you definitely should give this one a shot this holiday season.
Who this movie is for: Brutal horror fans, New French Extremity lovers, Obstetricians
Bottom line: Inside is mercilessly violent and perhaps needlessly cruel, but it's an incredible example of the anarchic and unruly filmmaking present inside New French Extremity. It's gory, shocking, and doesn't even toe the line before plunging across it by breaking every taboo that it can. Excellent performances and just all around excellent filmmaking. And it's a Christmas movie! Granted, the Christmas is really only tied in by the day on which it occurs, but it is a Christmas movie nonetheless, and it fits perfectly into our 13 Days of Christmas list as the last horror movie on the schedule. Give this one a shot if you're a fan of extreme horror.