Monday, January 19, 2009
INSIDE (***), a stunningly violent French thriller from first-time filmmakers Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, sets the current standard (at least from what I've scene) for on-screen death and punishment. This is a short (75 minutes) but unrelentingly brutal horror-thriller that utilizes fantastic digital cinematography and brilliant sound effects to create one of the craziest, nastiest, bloodiest cinematic home-invasions ever put on film. The set-up is simple: a pregnant woman named Sarah (Alysson Paradis), who has just recovered from a devastating car-wreck which killed her husband, is home-alone on Christmas eve on the last night of her pregnancy. A strange woman knocks on her door and asks if she can use the phone as she says she's been in an accident. The woman, never named in the film but played with icy, intense devotion by Beatrice Dalle, seems to know a little about Sarah, and before long, has broken her way into Sarah's house after she's been told to leave. What ensues is a vicious fight to the death between Sarah and the woman, with cops and other innocents making their way into the house at various points in the film, but never making it out. The directorial craft and technique of Maury and Bustillo cannot be ignored; they are very talented and stylish and their level of filmic sadism is something to behold. The performances from Paradis and Dalle, are, in a word, exhausting. Throwing themselves around the house and with Paradis in emotional turmoil for almost an hour straight, the dedication to their parts deserves commendation. But while the film is technically fantastic and the gore handled in a very up-front and realistic fashion, what purpose does the film serve overall? Many mentions are made throughout the film to the 2007 riots in France, but any ideals of social critique are absent in the story. Instead, what we're treated too (depending on your definition of what a treat is) is a genre film with brass balls, a movie that punishes its characters and the audience for the sheer thrill of it. And trust me, unless you're a student of the current new-wave horror movement coming out of France the last few years, you've never seen a thriller like this. Most effective are the subjective "from-the-womb" shots that Maury and Bustillo cut too while the pregnant Sarah fights for her life -- truly intense. I am not a fan of horror films; it's my least favorite genre. But every once in a while, a horror film comes out that I hear a ton of buzz about and my interest gets piqued. This was the case with INSIDE. I doubt I'll ever watch it again but I'm glad (in some sort of sick and deranged way, I guess) I got a chance to see what many people feel is one of the best horror movies ever made.