Written by Caballero Oscuro
Inside initially captured my attention for one reason only: Beatrice Dalle. Although her new film is clearly a horror movie, Dalle holds a fond spot in the minds of many Gen-X art-house fans thanks to her steamy debut performance over twenty years ago in the tragic romance Betty Blue. Her wildly unconventional beauty and completely vulnerable performance seared her in my memory back then, and although I haven’t seen any of her other projects in the intervening decades she’s one of those rare actors you never forget. Thankfully, her new role adds even more mystique to her aura and stands as a fully worthwhile effort on its own merits.
The film’s heroine is Sarah (Alysson Paradis), a young expectant mother who nearly lost her baby during a horrific car accident that claimed the life of her husband. As she nears her delivery date and copes with her grief, she’s approached at her home one evening by a mysterious older woman (Dalle). The woman quickly and brutally makes her goal known: she has come to take Sarah’s baby by any means necessary, even if it means cutting it out of Sarah’s still living body. It’s a classic game of cat and mouse with a nearly newborn life on the line, all taking place in Sarah’s claustrophobic and frighteningly dark home. That’s the sum total of the plot, but it fails to convey the expert building of terror and exponential explosion of gore in store for viewers.
The unnamed assailant is an unstoppable force with seemingly ninja-like stealth skills, deadly talent with a pair of scissors, and more lives than a cat. She’s momentarily hindered when Sarah barricades herself in a bathroom, but as other unexpected guests like the police and Sarah’s mother make appearances at the house, she finds her way to lure Sarah out of her hole. It’s unclear who will be victorious until the final frames, but unlike the similarly French, similarly graphic High Tension, it manages to arrive at a completely satisfying if somewhat abrupt conclusion.
The film was written and co-directed by rookie Alexandre Bustillo along with fellow newcomer Julien Maury. Mark them down as names to watch, just like Dalle was in the '80s. Their approach to horror is extremely graphic and gory, and the effects are top-notch throughout, so the squeamish should definitely sit this one out. However, the gore never becomes so all-consuming that it drifts into parody, as they smartly keep the focus on ratcheting up the terror level and allowing their fine lead actresses to deliver powerful performances.