In the 1970s, America produced horror films that pushed the envelope. In addition to playing in U.S. grindhouses, these films played in French art houses and remain popular in that country to this day.
In the 2000s, America has ceased producing horror films that push the envelope. France is filling the void. A few years back, Alexandre Aja shocked the world with his ultra-gory slasher "Haute Tension" (or "High Tension"). Now, in 2008, tongues are certainly going to be wagging with the U.S. DVD release of the latest French horror classic, "Inside" (aka, "À l'intérieur").
France is getting in the business of taking themes from totally sick and bad early 1980s horror films ("Anthropophagus," "Nightmare") and actually making high quality films with top-notch acting and directing around them.
I dare call "Inside" a classic because it is such a damn good horror movie. It also happens to be one of the bloodiest things ever produced -- anywhere. If "High Tension" pushed the envelope, "Inside" rips it off. But once again, unlike so many horror films that go over the top with gore, "Inside" is actually a great movie -- splendidly acted, incredibly well plotted and utterly suspenseful -- an Alfred Hitchcock movie on crack.
Like "The Descent," the film opens with a car accident. Sara (Alysson Paradis) is pregnant behind the wheel and her husband is dead in the passenger seat. Flash forward a few months and Sara is at the hospital where she's getting ready to have an induced birth. She disturbs her mother by telling her that she wants to spend Christmas Eve at home alone. Riots are keeping the police busy that night as well.
A strange woman shows up and knocks on her front door, telling her she needs to use her phone. Sara tries to get rid of the woman, claiming her husand is "asleep". She'll need to use someone else's phone. Then the woman informs Sara that her husband can't be asleep, because he's already dead.
The stranger is referred to simply as "La Femme," and she's played with focus by Béatrice Dalle, an actress whose Barbara Steele-esque bone structure makes her a natural for horror movie. Wearing a black dress, La Femme has a willingness to kill, lie and torture to get what she wants: Sarah's unborn baby. "I want one," she tells Sarah from behind a locked door. "Who would want to fuck a maniac like you?" Sarah asks her.
Every one of Sarah's would-be rescuers -- basically the entire cast of the movie -- shows up, but turns out no match for La Femme, including the French police. The more that show up, the worse things seem to get, until Sarah ultimately has to revert into a bloodied wild woman -- even to the point of performing a tracheotomy on herself -- if she wants both her and her unborn baby to survive the night.
Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury make the film's low budget work to their advantage by increasing the viewer's sense of claustrophobia. In addition to all-around excellent performances, especially from Dalle who would go down as a scream queen icon if she starred in more horror movies, the film boasts top-notch gore effects.
Released in 2008, by Dimension Extreme, the film is a must watch for horror fans. Bustillo and Maury have already been hired by Dimension to direct the "Hellraiser" remake, but it's doubtful they could ever make anything as primal and excellent as "Inside" that could make its way into American cineplexes.