Inside opens with the aftermath of a violent car crash involving a man and his pregnant wife, Sarah (Alysson Paradis). It is quite clear that Sarah’s husband did not survive the accident, leaving Sarah alone, distraught and carrying a child. Flash forward to four months later, it’s Christmas Eve and Sarah is due to be induced the next morning. Until that time, however, Sarah will wait out the final night of her pregnancy in her home, with no one other than her cat to keep her company. While this would likely be a night where anticipation and sadness clouds Sarah’s thoughts, things take an unexpected turn when a psychotic woman (Béatrice Dalle) starts harassing her. Eventually, the woman’s harassment turns into an all out attempt to murder Sarah, and what ensues is a visceral bloodbath of violence and destruction as Sarah must fight to protect not only herself, but her unborn child, too.
Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, Inside (À l'intérieur) is a 2007 French horror film that starts off in a fashion that is quite reminiscent of John Carpenter’s Slasher masterpiece, Halloween. The inspiration is clear in how some of the earlier moments are executed as well as the effect they have on the viewer, featuring a sort of background horror that, if you catch it, will give you a good reason to change your adult diaper. Inside plays the creepy vibe perfectly for the first act, then the film slowly unfolds into a full-on, no holds barred gorefest. Or, better yet, a gorefeast, because the bloody brutality of Inside has a satisfying taste reminiscent of the gruesome Slasher films of yesteryear.
Inside comes in under 90 min and pushes a relentless pace from start to finish. The film holds this pace with a simple narrative that only focuses on a few characters. The locations are also kept to a minimum, as - outside of the opening car accident - Inside is set almost entirely inside of Sarah’s home, with Sarah left to defend herself against the onslaught that is La Femme. There are a few sporadic characters that show up and give La Femme the opportunity to show off her ferocity, but the core of Inside is solely focused on the simplistic cat and mouse game between La Femme and Sarah.
*I’m about to get into some character motivations which might be too spoilery for anyone who hasn’t seen Inside, so please, tread lightly, if at all.*
La Femme is, without a doubt, one of the most frightening characters to ever grace the screen. The chaos caused by this woman is almost legendary. But the question remains: why would any woman, crazed or not, attempt to kill a woman carrying a child? Where is her compassion? Well, her compassion, her empathy and her sanity were all left behind in the very car accident that took Sarah’s husband from her, as it’s later revealed that La Femme was the other unseen motorist. Worse yet, La Femme was also pregnant and lost her child as a result of the car wreck, which has sent her down a path of vengeance where her goal is to take Sarah’s child and raise it as her own.
This is what makes La Femme such an interesting character. As much as she’s a monster, La Femme is laced with a strong trace of sympathy. This is a character who has lost something that meant more to her than most viewers can ever fully grasp: her child. As a result, she blames Sarah for this loss, and her drive is that of a person who wants back what was unfairly taken from them. Does it make her a good person? No, not at all, but it is hard not to feel a little sorry for her, especially when Sarah is presented as a woman who is conflicted about being a mother herself. Why should Sarah be allowed to have a child that she doesn’t seem to really want, while La Femme, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to be a mother?
Now, in defense of Sarah, she too has suffered an incredible loss; a loss that removed an important part of her foundation. It’s clear that the death of her husband has greatly affected Sarah, and having him taken away from her results in her feeling incomplete and fearful of motherhood. The father of her child is no longer there to be the emotional support system that she always thought would be in place. And in no way does this reflect poorly Sarah as a person or make her weak in any way. In fact, I can imagine losing such a huge part of one’s life would result in an incredible amount self doubt and weakness. Furthermore, this pregnancy has likely served as a reminder of her husband’s death, something that, understandably, would be quite difficult to deal with.
Inside revels in its simplicity as a straightforward, no bullshit horror flick, but the fact that it gives a nice undercurrent of thoughtful character development shows the filmmakers were focused on keeping the audience engaged beyond the cool gore gags and buckets of blood. As much as Inside is a wet dream for a splatter fan, and as much as it delivers some truly tense moments, the strength of the film is in the internal conflict between Sarah and La Femme, two characters looking into a mirror, only to see the other’s reflection.