★ / ★★★★
Pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis) and her husband (Jean-Baptiste Tabourin) were involved in a car accident just four months ago. It claimed the life of the latter, but Sarah and her baby survived. Four months later, it is Christmas Eve and Sarah is scheduled to go to the doctor’s in the morning, to be picked up by her mother (Nathalie Roussel), so the professionals can help to induce labor. But Christmas Eve is not as peaceful as she has expected. A strange woman (Béatrice Dalle) knocks on her door and asks if she can use the telephone. When Sarah starts to get suspicious, the woman begins to terrorize her, claiming that all she wants is a baby.
“À l’intérieur,” directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, is a black hole of misery. While it has one very creepy shot involving the unnamed woman camouflaging in shadows in the background as the protagonist sleeps on the foreground, the rest of the material are painfully formulaic and consistently maddening.
After the stranger finally gets inside the house, there is a short unimaginative chase that forces Sarah to lock herself up in the bathroom with nowhere to go and no telephone. The filmmakers’ idea of suspense is putting unsuspecting individuals, cops and people who personally know Sarah, inside the house which often lead to their grizzly deaths via stabbing by sharp objects. The formula rinses and repeats. I sat there, unimpressed, wondering if the picture has any fresh ideas to offer.
The conflict between Sarah and the woman in black might have been more interesting if we were given a chance to know a little bit more about them. For example, the stranger seems to kill only men. But this potentially intriguing pattern means zilch because the woman with no name is portrayed as nothing but a monster who wishes to steal an unborn baby. Would it have been too much to ask for Bustillo, who wrote the story, to give the villain a more complex motivation while the action is going on? While there is an explanation tagged at the very end but by the time it comes around, all cards have been laid out on the table. It fails to matter because there is no longer an air of mystery.
Furthermore, the stranger is personified almost like an apparition as she tiptoes and glides across the room prior to killing her victim. Instead of the filmmakers forming a bridge between such a technique and Sarah’s morbid nightmares about her baby coming out of her mouth, it relies only on blood to generate would-be horror. While I found myself wincing at the woman in black putting a pillow over someone’s face and then stabbing the pillow with scissors, the tension is alleviated immediately as soon as the violence has stopped. Then it is onto the next bloody scene.
It is clear that the directors have lost track of the fact that their film, also known as “Inside,” is about an intense period of grief. In the beginning, while in the examination room and later in her suburban home, one can look at Sarah’s face and consider that maybe she no longer wants to have the baby after her husband’s untimely death. As she looks at photographs of happier times, she feels she has been left behind.
When the baby-craving stranger is introduced in the equation, the directors should have found a way to convince us that the extremely painful trials Sarah must to go through will force her to snap out of it and realize that she is strong enough and it is alright to move on for the sake of her unborn child. Instead, the focus is on the violence and its glorified ugliness. It is a most depressing experience.