Have Yourself a Bloody Little Christmas: Pushing the Envelope with Inside
All right, calling this one current is chancing my arm a bit. It was made in 2007, but all I can say is that it’s current to me. It’s only a few weeks since I saw Alexandre Aja’s High Tension, for Heaven’s sake, and now along comes Inside from directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. I’ve definitely been out of touch as regards full-blooded foreign horror films as I certainly didn’t know that the French were doing such in-your-face work lately, given with an Art House touch, naturally. We would expect no less, darlings.
I thought that High Tension was pushing the blood-and-guts nearly to the limit, although I was ultimately put off because the film is a bit of a cheat; but Inside? This is knee- you- in- the- balls, grab- you- by- the- lapels and nut-you- in- the-face, hardcore fare for the strongest of stomachs only.
This is the French? I must definitely have been in jail for a few years. Either that or all the alcohol abuse finally caught up with me.
The very opening shot is a baby floating contentedly in a womb whilst we hear the mother’s voice talking to it. Suddenly there is a frightening thud and the baby’s head appears to smack the camera lens. Then a tracking shot shows us two smoking cars that have been in a head-on collision. The camera moves in to the windscreen and we see the battered and bloody form of a pregnant woman inside, with the unmoving figure of a man in the passenger seat. And that’s all before the credits even begin.
Four months later we join the woman, Sarah (Allyson Paradis)—sullen, uncommunicative—who is now a widow and being given a final examination on Christmas Eve as she is due to deliver the next day. So the husband died but the baby was fine.
“It’s a Fucking War Zone!”
The tone is threatening and off-key from the beginning. Whilst in the lobby she is joined by a woman who appears to be a nurse and who cheers her up big time by telling her of her own happy pregnancy. Trust me, you wouldn’t want this weirdo next to you at the best of times:
“It sucks. I mean it. I suffered the worst pain ever. He made me go through that, but was born dead.” And then she merrily lights up a cigarette and gives a little chuckle. This may not be very funny but it’s about all you’re going to get because from then on Inside is utterly relentless.
Sarah gets home only to discover that there is a woman trying to get into her house. The woman knows her name and details of her private life. And she’s stone freaking mad.
Once she gets inside it is Hell all the way as Sarah, with half her face sliced open and bleeding like crazy, manages to lock herself in the bathroom whilst La Femme (an almost unrecognisable Beatrice Dalle) goes on a rampage, taking on all comers. As one cop says: “It’s a fucking war zone!” and there were only two corpses littering up the place at that point, mind.
Dalle was really a bit of a shock to me, remembering her as I do from the long-gone Stella Cinema in Dublin back in the eighties where her cult hit Betty Blue played for months on end every Friday and Saturday. She was on the verge of making a name for herself in the Sates when she was busted for cocaine possession during the filming of Abel Ferrara’s The Blackout. As a result, when she was due to play Bruce Willis’s wife in The Sixth Sense she wasn’t allowed back into the country. She’s had a few problems in France as well and over all I guess the years may not have been kind to her. And I suspect that she hasn’t been too kind to herself, either. But one thing is for sure: she is one scary lunatic in this film and will probably go into the Psycho (male or female) Hall of Infamy.
The title plays on several levels, not that you have much time to ponder that during the mayhem that is taking place on the screen. It can refer to the child being bashed and thrown around inside the womb whilst his mother battles with La Femme. This is hitting at one of the last taboos, really. The sight of any harm coming to a small baby is terrible for any normal person, but to see it at its most defenceless—floating in amniotic fluid where it should be most protected-– is really chilling in a very fundamental way.
It can also be taken as a marker for almost all the action taking place inside the house. Events in the world outside don’t matter; and although there is a background of civil unrest in the streets of France’s cities we only see that through Sarah’s television. Then again she is locked inside the bathroom for much of the film.
One thing that certainly isn’t internalised in any way is La Femme’s rage. This woman is one angry, pissed-off killing machine with no mercy whatsoever. The directors escalate the violence throughout but in the last twenty minutes they manage to take it even further than you ever thought it would go, atrocity being piled on atrocity.
It may seem a bit perverse to recommend a film like this; but it’s very well crafted and the directors make the low budget work of them. But remember, if you are in any way, squeamish…well, you were warned!