Twelve Days of Axe-mas: Inside (2007)

I am taking part in The Chicago Creepout’s Twelve Days of Axe-mas holiday viewing event. This is my day seven.

I have never been able to get on board with the brand of extreme horror films that have been coming out of France over the last ten or so years. Inside is a prime example of why these films just do not work for me.

Now, I am not going on a moral rant about having a plot that hinges on a pregnant woman being menaced and tortured by an insane woman who wants to cut the baby from her and claim it as her own. Anyone who knows me or has read my film criticism knows that I do not morally judge films. I am also not going to take it to task for its extreme gore and violence. I love horror films and these elements are accepted ingredients in most modern horror cinema—both good and bad. No, where I have a problem with the film comes from its tone, which works against the ridiculous levels of violence and gore on display.

The need to push the limits of violence in horror films is not a bad thing. By definition, horror films are intended to horrify the viewer. One of the most affective ways to do this is through threatening or showing violence against characters the viewer has come to care about. But the more ridiculous the violence in a film gets, the harder it is for me to take it seriously.

Inside starts out strongly. The build up to pregnant Sarah (Alysson Paradis) spending Christmas Eve by herself and how the unnamed Woman (Béatrice Dalle) initially torments her by appearing outside her home is very frightening. This terror increases with the Woman’s initial physical assault on Sarah and through a graphically violent encounter between the Woman and some unlucky visitors.

But the violence in these first two murders is so extreme and graphic, there is no where for to directors Alexadre Bustillo and Julien Maury to take the film. As much as they try to increase the shocking level of violence through the film, they only succeed in making it more and more outlandish. This leads the film to being a series of violent encounters in the second and third acts that come to border on cartoonish as violence is inflicted on characters that should be fatal, only for them to bounce back and fight some more.

If the film had the tone of a horror-comedy, Inside could have been a subversive classic. But the tone that Bustillo and Maury push is relentlessly grim. This tone requires a grounding in reality to keep it from becoming laughable. But the violence is more in line with something the Road Runner would inflict on Wile E. Coyote, only with gallons and gallons of blood included.

It’s fine to push movie violence to outlandish levels to shock an audience, but it works best in small doses in short films or contained bursts in feature films. Devoting the final two acts of a feature film to constantly upping the ante with violence and expecting the audience to take it seriously is asking too much. By the time Inside ends on its expectedly downer note, I was rolling my eyes at the unintended comedy of the moment.

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