Friday, April 25, 2008

ON DVD : INSIDE

There is reason to celebrate the DVD release of French horror import Inside: it cements that this film never got a run at our cinema screens. On the downside, expect it to circulate around film sites, achieving cult status, until a relative of the sadistic "new" French horror craze out-shocks it to become the next Scuzz Du Jour. (The upcoming Fronteir(s) is getting a brief run in selected U.S. cities).
Although none of the horror web sites are brave enough to admit it, French horror is the worst thing to happen to the genre since Mondo. The fact that horror heads give it respect, and up-and-coming directors feel inspired by it, is cause to worry that this zero sum cinema will continue its creep into the mainstream. (It already has with Alexander Aja's edited theatrical release of Haute Tension (aka High Tension), and his remake of The Hills Have Eyes. Yet, in French horror tradition, those films now pale in comparison...)

One of the biggest myths in horror film is the "social commentary" angle. Sure, the masters (Corman, Henenlotter, Romero, Craven... ) do it well, but to play that card is simply an excuse to justify unguarded brutality. And Inside directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury play it sloppily by placing their story amidst the French suburb riots of 2005. Because that event is given no context and understanding, the directors simply exploit it as a tone-setter for the action on screen. Even when an arrested Muslim youth enters the plot - and the opportunity for a smidge of relevance stares you in the face - the directors come up clueless and lobotomize the kid with a pair of scissors.

Mondo never wanted to scare or frighten audiences, only to make them turn away and grimace. (If that's your definition of horror... that sucks, man.) Inside is no different. A pregnant woman is the protagonist in this siege movie about a knowing stranger that wants the woman's baby for her own. The film's first shot is a CGI close-up of a baby in the womb during a car crash. On impact, blood fills the placenta. Near the end, Inside crescendos with a long murderous c-section sequence that results in a stillborn. I was mistaken in the above paragraph. Bustillo and Maury's film does have subtext : they hate life.

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