Monday, October 27, 2008

À l'intérieur (2007)

It seems like it wasn't too long ago that horror fans counted on the influx of Japanese angry ghost movies to resurrect the horror genre from oblivion. Nowadays, our beloved European allies are picking up the slack for a lazy Hollywood machine that appears to have run out of ideas.

A couple of weeks ago I reviewed that brilliant, micro-budget Spanish pseudo-zombie mini epic, [.REC]. If you're in North America and are not tracking down a torrent of this movie to tide you over until a proper DVD release, then shame on you.

This time around, it is the wonderfully unapologetic French splatterfest, À l'intérieur, better known to North Americans as Inside and co-directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury.

The plot of À l'intérieur is stripped down and built for speed.

Maury and Bustillo have the gall to set this story near Christmas and set the stage by introducing us to Sarah (Alysson Paradis), a lonely pregnant woman mourning the loss of her husband to a terrible car accident. Poor Sarah plans on spending Christmas Eve alone and then checking herself into a hospital on Christmas Day to give birth to her child...

...or so she thinks...

Unfortunately for Sarah, she's being stalked by a completely psychotic woman (Béatrice Dalle) suffering the incredible delusion that Sarah's unborn child somehow belongs in her womb instead of Sarah's. In the fashion of proper movie psychos like The Shape from John Carpenter's horror masterpiece, Halloween, Dalle's character is referred to in the closing credits only as La Femme or The Woman.

So there you have it: One extremely vulnerable woman, one batshit insane stalker without a name, one unborn child, plenty of unlucky bystanders, and gallons and gallons of blood.

A twice-blessed event (Christmas and the birth of a child) transformed into as brutal of a struggle for survival as you'll ever see on film.

I've always maintained that movies with psycho killers frighten me the most because of the lack of a substantial amount of willful suspension of disbelief allowed to me. It's easy to wave off vampires or werewolves, but it doesn't work so much for "insane person with a pair of knitting needles lunging for your jugular." Chosing not believe in the existance of a homicidal maniac doesn't necessarily keep the homicidal maniac from believing in your existance, and if they do then you might not be existing for very long.

À l'intérieur is absolutely bone-jarring. Normally the gratuitous amount of over-the-top violence would tend to shove a movie towards the campier side of the spectrum. In this case, the violence coupled with the ruthlessness and relentlessness of Béatrice Dalle's character, La Femme, only serves to shock your senses more than usual.

As much as Sarah is determined to do what is necessary to save her life and the life of her unborn child, La Femme is even that much more determined to possess a life that she honestly believes rightfully belongs to her. The alchemy that occurs as these philosophies collide is nothing short of astounding, and Maury and Bustillo have enough faith in their script to let the action go where it will with no safety catch whatsoever.

The result is arguably one of the most memorable bloodbaths in modern horror cinema. It is Haute Tension done the way Haute Tension should've been done in the first place; all of the evil with none of the overdone melodrama.

I had to really work hard in order to track down a copy of this movie. Fortunately enough for the readers of this beloved blog, I've made pretty good time with the sales girl at Borders of Utica, Michigan and she spared no effort in transferring a copy of this DVD to her store.

Usually a film with this much notoriety or infamy is destined for a Holywood remake but personally, I can't see Hollywood touching this one with a ten-foot cattle prod.

Ironically, given the love / hate relationship that Americans have with the PG-13 rating, I don't think it's the amount of blood that would keep US audiences away from an R rated remake. I just don't think we're honestly ready for a premise this mean spirited.

Then again, if Hollywood bothered to remake Michael Heinke's Funny Games then perhaps anything is possible.


Doug Tilley said...

I'll admit to intentionally staying away from this film since there's a part of me that is just horrified at the premise.

I'm also glad that we share the opinion of Haute Tension being a decent, but criminally overrated film. I'll admit that the twist didn't work for me, but even without the twist I felt like I was often being bludgeoned by the director. It showed promise, but i'm not surprised that Aja has proven to be a bit of a hack so far.

J.T. said...

I remember when the end credits of Haute Tension ran and I was all, "Jesus, that's it?" From that movie alone, I'm not surprised that Aja has turned into a hack; probably due to beliving in his own hype like M. Night seems to.

And I hear ya on staying away from certain films. To this date I can't work up the nerve to watch Irreversible because I know I won't be able to sit through what happens to poor Monica Belucci's character. I can handle gore, but I draw the line at rape. I can't handle that or watching children in peril.

After watching À l'intérieur and [.REC], I'm suddenly stoked about tracking down the other two Euro-horror title recently recommended to me: Sheitan and Maléfique.

Doug Tilley said...

I'm actually hoping to cover the remake (perhaps combined with the original, which I really like) of FUNNY GAMES in the near future.

Not really a "hollywood" remake, even if it had a few names in the cast.

J.T. said...

True enough. The Funny Games remake wasn't "hollywood" per se.

It received a lot more marketing and studio backing than I thought it would given the subject matter that you could easily mistake for pure sadism if you weren't familiar with the premise of the original movie.