As the decade draws to a close, I can’t help but sit back and reflect on the horror films which have become instant classics with me. Mainstream releases such as The Last Exorcism, The Last House on the Left, The Ring; nano-budget independent films like In Memorium, Dawning, The Commune; international imports Martyrs, 28 Days Later, [REC], to name a few. All of these are fantastic films which have advanced the genre in one way or another. But as I think about it more and more, there is one film that stands out more than any other. A film that, on the surface, appears to be fairly straightforward but is so much more. That film is the French masterpiece Inside (aka À l’intérieur). A grandiose statement? Perhaps. But let me explain why. Warning: spoilers abound so if you haven’t seen the film (and really, if you haven’t, do so pronto), click away.
To set the stage: a pregnant woman (Sarah), who is the lone survivor of a horrific automobile accident, has been left to bring her baby to term without the love of her life. But she isn’t completely alone as she has family and friends reaching out to her constantly. However, she shuns all offers for assistance. Even on the most celebrated of times, Christmas, she wants to spend the eve on her own, getting to bed early for a drive to the doctors the next morning so that he can induce labor. But her early to slumber night is cut short when a stranger arrives at her front door claiming to have car troubles. When Sarah rebuffs the plea for help, the woman on other side of the door reveals intimate details about her life. It’s all down hill from here as our story becomes one of the most terrifying home invasions ever captured on film.
The first thing that I’d like to comment on the film is the emotional rollercoaster that is employed from the get go. We are shocked at the sounds of the accident and hurried along as a gurney is wheeled through a hospital. These actions striking the system within the first 5 minutes of the film. From there, our mood grows somber as this woman, despite nearing the delivery of one of life’s greatest miracles, is living in a bit of a haze. Instead of being happy, we get the sense that she longs for her dead love and that, in a very subtle way, she resents the baby because of it. This is most evident when her doctor asks her the name of the soon to be newborn child and she stares blankly ahead, emotionless and unresponsive. Combined with the relentless and frenzied pursuit of our attacker, this film is awash with a myriad of emotions.
Before we get to the unrelenting brutality of it all, the film’s a slow burner in the early goings. A scene which still gets to me no matter how many times I view the film is when we first see our black gowned female intruder actually in the home. Sarah awakes from a nap on her living room couch. Over her shoulder, and slinking into, the study behind her, we see a dark gowned, almost ghostly figure. She continues to move backwards, staring at her as we (the viewer) continue to peer over her shoulder. Her figure then becomes enveloped by the darkness of the room and disappears. I will go on record as saying that this is one of the most wonderfully shot and nerve rattling scenes I’ve ever witnessed in a film, horror or not.
When the police first arrive at the house (frantically, she calls them when the woman first appears), in a blink and you’ll miss it moment, you notice that the address number on her home is 666. Coupled with the previously mentioned scene, you start to think that maybe our unwanted house guest is some kind of supernatural force. But this notion, for the most part, is dispelled as you watch the rest of the film and the mystery of why she’s there is unraveled.
Our intruder makes her presence known after Sarah heads up stairs to continue her sleep. She straddles her in the process, having grabbed a large pair of scissors before heading up. Sarah awakens, struggles and then breaks free, taking refuge in her bathroom. What transpires for the remainder of the film is a bit of a Tom and Jerry act as Sarah attempts to escape, our intruder tries to get from her what she came for, and she heads back into the safety of the locked bathroom. This constant back and forth, along with multiple people who’ve come to check up on Sarah which meet their grisly and untimely demise, happens all the way until the very bitter end. And its one turn your head away, body cringing, brutally bitter end.
But by far, the most unsettling part of our film, after the intruder reveals her connection to her and takes possession of the baby, is the notion that maybe, just maybe this woman would serve as a better mother. In some weird, sick, twisted, demented way, Sarah is so mired by her self-loathing and inability to be happy that this relentless, at all costs killer could some how, some way be a better mother. That feeling haunted me after watching the film and it continues to do so after every subsequent viewing.
With that haunting feeling as we as all of the other aforementioned elements, Inside gets my vote for best horror film of the decade. Ask me again next week and I might change my mind as Martyrs comes a very close second.