You know how certain amusement park rides (usually the really scary or herky-jerky ones) have warning signs that say "Look, if you're pregnant enough that you can rest a mug of coffee on top of your belly, then you're definitely not allowed to get on this ride"? I'm paraphrasing there, but already you get my point: Certain rides are too physically strenuous for pregnant women to deal with. Well, I'd like to propose that the ferocious French horror flick À l'intérieur (aka Inside) get one of those signs. Bottom Line: Not since Rosemary's Baby has there been a film to freak out the preggos. I think my water broke three times during À l'intérieur.
Another question: You know how Japanese horror took the film festivals, the arthouses, and the remake machine by storm a few years ago? I was generally underwhelmed by most of those movies. But this new wave of freaky French fright flicks? Dang, all of a sudden I'm a big fan. From Calvaire and Haute Tension to new arrivals like Frontiere(s) and À l'intérieur, I'm starting to think the French take their horror fare very seriously. And I know it's popular nowadays to dislike the French, but if they keep offering imports like this one, I may just pull a Johnny Depp and purchase a palace in Paris.
The plot is a wonderfully stripped-down affair: An extremely pregnant young woman (who recently lost her husband in a terrible car accident) is scheduled to have her baby the next day. So her plan is to spend Christmas Eve alone at home -- miserable gal that she is -- and then check into the hospital in the morning to give birth. Sounds simple enough. Unfortunately there's this outrageously crazy psycho bitch who's entirely convinced that our heroine's unborn baby ... is hers. And let's just say our villainess is not averse to getting her hands (ahem) dirty while extracting the unborn child. That's pretty much it: Two women, one night, several unlucky bystanders, and more fake blood than Herschell Gordon Lewis ever dreamt of. Some may call it sick and others may call it shamelessly ugly garbage, but as someone who's seen hundreds of horror movies from every corner of the globe -- I'm convinced that À l'intérieur is some sort of maniacal mini-masterpiece. Or if it is just 85 minutes of well-polished genre crap, then it's crap that had me cringing, cheering, clapping, howling and gaping slack-jawed at the screen. It's an audaciously gruesome little flick, there's no doubt about that, and I guarantee it'll cause some controversy once the mainstream catches a whiff. (And I'm very curious to see what my female colleagues think of the film.)
This stylish, sticky and jaw-droppingly graphic 'dark fairy tale' comes from first-timers Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, and it sure seems like the duo wanted to set their debut effort on STUN. As in: You simply won't believe how far over-the-top À l'intérieur gets. It's powerfully gory, admirably unsettling, bleakly amusing, and at its best moments, the movie is deliciously suspenseful. (I counted two self-afflicted indian burns after the movie was over.) But what makes such a simplistic story work so well? My theory is this: When you think about it, there's nothing more valuable than a very pregnant woman. And to see one in danger (let alone danger of THIS dizzying degree) allows a viewer to become instantly invested in her painful plight. Plus both of the leads (Alysson Paradis as the prey, Beatrice Dalle the predator) leap into the mayhem with admirable passion.
But make no mistake: This is one hardcore horror film. If your 59-year-old mother was proud of herself after sitting through Saw 2, make sure she realizes that she's never even dreamt of a movie as graphically distressing as À l'intérieur. I don't mind admitting that I left the screening more than a little shaken, but like I said: I've seen too many horror movies to count, and if this one left me with a few butterflies in the belly, you should take the admission for what it's worth: À l'intérieur is unrelenting, brutal and stunningly violent. It's also very well-crafted, powerful, creepy and scary on a murky primal level. All I can say is I'm glad I was born a guy. Women have it so much tougher than we do.