Welcome to Foreign Objects, a new weekly review column covering the world of film outside the USA. I know what you’re thinking, ‘They make movies outside of Hollywood?’ The answer is yes, and you’ll be happy to know other countries make films just as great and just as crappy as we do every year. Each week we’ll highlight some of the more notable ones with a review or two of foreign films/dvds both new and old. It seems fitting to begin this first installment the way many things start… with a French fetus.
A fetus floats peacefully in a sac of goo… all seems calm and serene as a low voice echoes words of love and reassurance… suddenly brakes screech to an impact and the fetus slams forward, head snapping, face contorting in pain…
And so begins Inside, the most brutal French film since High Tension (at least until I get to see Frontier(s) next week.) I don’t use the word ‘brutal’ here lightly either. This unrated movie is harsh, furious, and unrelenting. Oh, and bloody. Very, very bloody. So much so that I really can’t even picture an R-rated cut being more than thirty minutes long. For all those who thought Juno got a little too big for her maternity britches, Inside is your cathartic cure.
After the opening crash scene witnessed from within the womb, the camera reveals the exterior aftermath. Two cars in the rain, windows shattered, a broken wiper moving back and forth across the gaping maw of the windshield. Inside the car a pregnant woman sits behind the wheel, bloodied and bruised, staring at her dead husband sitting beside her. Cut to four months later, and it’s Christmas Eve in a Parisian suburb. A scarred and still heavily pregnant Laura leaves the hospital for her “last night of peace and quiet” before her baby is due the next day.
What follows is a night of unremitting terror between two women (and the occasional visitor) that can best be summed up by the following. Laura has something. Crazy lady wants something and will go to any lengths to get it. That “something” is Laura’s unborn baby. Hilarity ensues.
I really can’t overstate how graphic and vicious Inside is. There are slashings, stabbings, burns, gunshots, a self-inflicted tracheotomy, and a birthing scene… all of them intensely disturbing and not to be shared with significant others (trust me on that… especially the last one.) Adding to the physical brutality is the realization that the woman suffering quite a bit of this punishment is nine months pregnant. We’re reminded of this periodically when scenes of Laura’s physical abuse is coupled with reaction shots of an anguished-looking fetus within the womb. I wouldn’t have wasted time reviewing Inside if brutality is all it had to offer, though. Surprisingly the movie is actually a horrific little thriller. First time directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury have created a claustrophobic and effective battle of wills, and the two leads, Alysson Paradis and Beatrice Dalle, give strong and admirable performances. Paradis in particluar does well with a difficult role, showing equal amounts of despair and rage. There are some genuinely eerie scenes, including one of Laura on the couch before the onslaught that still creeps me out. I won’t go so far as to agree with the filmmakers’ comments that this is essentially a “love story”, because that’s just absurd. I know they’re French and all, but still, there’s very little love on display here. This is a horror movie, period.
Inside does have some problems. Some of the scenes are too dark to see what’s happening (an issue that plagued AvP: Requiem, but at least here it only affects a few scenes.) Following genre conventions, there are some questionable decisions made by characters that anyone who’s actually seen a slasher film would never make. This includes one of the stupider cops in recent memory who actually ties a teenage perp to his waist, like a toddler on a leash, as he goes to investigate the dark house. That doesn’t go well for either of them. Finally, while the ending is satisfying in its own way, I wouldn’t call it expected or deserved.
Inside is a punishing experience, both physically and emotionally, but it’s recommended for those who can handle the blood, intensity, and judgmental glares from friends and family. The film is a recent release from The Weinstein Company’s Dimension Extreme dvd label and it should count as a definite, and much needed, plus for the deservedly maligned brothers. (They’re still bastards who deserve to be slapped with their own castrated phalluses for all the Asian films they’ve raped and exploited though…) The dvd extras are sparse, just a trailer and a making-of, but that making-of is incredibly thorough – covering everything from the effects to the musical score. Don’t watch it before the movie as it shows all the film’s sfx money shots as well as the movie’s ending. But do watch it… after the grueling experience of the film itself, its nice to relax and watch as a crew-member uses the prosthetic baby’s umbilical cord for a guitar solo.
If all goes well, next week’s Foreign Objects should be coming to you from the beautiful beaches of Cannes, France. Just waiting on the round-trip plane ticket from Neil…