I like a movie with guts. Sorry, that was an abusively bad pun to start off this article. As a film fan I like a lot of different kinds of movies, obviously. There’s one style I’m especially fond of that doesn’t get used often enough. I’m struggling to think of a clever phrase or word to christen this style (I can’t be the first, but still). Let’s call it assertive storytelling, which is at least better than the first term I came up with “face punch.” It’s the kind of movie that has a very specific goal in mind and pursues it non-stop to the point of exhaustion, then ends. Movies like John Wick and The Raid fall under this category, although it’s not limited to action movies. My previous Halloween Binge Return of the Living Dead might fall under this category. As far as something more recently in theatres, Sicario, in a lot of ways, belongs to this assertive camp. There’s something nice about a movie that skims off all the fat, then boils what’s remaining down to a pure essence. Well my recent binge watch, the French film Inside, absolutely falls on this spectrum.
Inside is a movie that deals, roughly, with three things – home invasion, pregnancy, and gore. Really though the home invasion is just the sub-genre, it’s reduced down to the last two. It does those two things very well for under an hour and twenty minutes, and that’s about it. It is, consequently, awesome. There’s not really enough film, or variance, to complain about anything, which is absolutely a compliment. Inside is one of those movies you’ll either like or not, without a whole lot of gradation. It’s either your kind of movie or not. You can either stomach the gore and scarring imagery or you can’t.
That’s worth reiterating. If you can’t handle some viscera, this is not the movie for you. There is a lot of blood in this movie. There are a lot of makeshift weapons and horrible wounds and so much blood. And the main character of the film is pregnant, which is how this movie trips up most people. There’s some truly spectacular gore. Personally I cackled regularly. Don’t get me wrong, there was some skin crawling stuff, but that mainly made me swear. It was more thrilling to me than wince inducing. Goodnight Mommy made me squirm far more.
That’s okay though, because Inside made me sit in in my chair and go “what the fuck!” for nigh on three minutes at one point. Which goes to show that even with the high level of gore on display there are still a few moments that stand out as being particularly grim and surprising. Really, rather surprising. Which at that point I didn’t think the movie had in it. There is some imagery you’ll predict in the beginning, but it’s still hard to watch when it happens – its impact is not lessened by the anticipation.
Just to set the stage the movie opens with a shot of a fetus in the womb. There’s a voice heard whispering something soothing to the fetus. Then there’s a screeching noise and the fetus knocks up against the camera and there are tracings of blood in the shot. We then meet our protagonist, an expecting mother named Sarah. She’s still recovering from a car crash that injured her and killed her husband, and she’s got a planned due date on Christmas Day (making the whole film one of the all time grimmest incidental Christmas films ever). Sarah’s still pretty traumatized from the car crash, and we see a scene of her pushing away her mother, refusing to spend Christmas with her, that sort of thing. Then we see a scene where Sarah meets with her boss (she’s a photographic journalist). Another moment at her home with a spooky dream about her dead husband, and a puking fit where she imagines puking up her baby. That evening she’s accosted through her door and window by a shadowy figure. She doesn’t recognize the figure or voice, but the figure knows about Sarah’s husband’s death, and knows Sarah, and demands to get in. Sarah calls the police, takes a photo of her, then develops the film. The photo’s too dark to make much use of. The police come, check the area, tell Sarah they’ll check in on her, and leave for the night.
Sarah calls her boss (onscreen) and her mom (off-screen I assume) and fills them in on the situation. Sarah’s a pretty smart protagonist at this point, although as she gets more battered she makes more mistakes. This is all the opening say ten to fifteen minutes of the film. Already there’s a frightening dream, gross fetus vomiting, and a menacing intruder. The rest of the movie, basically from the scene after the cops leave, is shit getting fucked up.
The intruder gets in, and Sarah does her best to defend herself. Some other people wander into the situation and get entangled in it, which rarely ends well for them. Like I said this is a pretty bare bones movie. Most of the runtime is straightforward – crazy scissor wielding protagonist vs pregnant woman. There are several moments of violence that truly manage to surprise even within these fairly horrifying parameters. There are knitting needles, scissors, bits of glass, guns, and bludgeons all involved.
This is the sort of movie where, by the end, the protagonist’s white shirt is entirely red with her blood. She’s pregnant. If that makes your skin crawl this may not be the movie for you. It’s spectacularly savage and gory. It’s also incredibly entertaining and impeccably executed (with the exception of one shot that I had a problem with). This is certainly a movie that’s not for everyone, but goddamn if I didn’t enjoy it. It’s so aggressive and over the top and ridiculous, while remaining kind of simple and stripped down. That’s a rare combo. Sure I might be scared of scissors for a while, but that’s a small price to pay.