Inside (2016)

Inside first published by SciFiNow

In the opening scene of Inside, pregnant Sarah (Rachel Nichols) is driving in the rain, and chatting with her husband Matt about the name they should give to the child she is carrying in her belly, when the car collides head-on with another, flips spectacularly over, and suddenly Sarah is a widow, sitting there inverted, her ears bleeding, looking out of a large hole in the windscreen. Here interiority is everything: both Sarah and her unborn daughter are contained – in the womb, in the car – but also trapped. 

Cut to months later, and the baby is overdue but seemingly reluctant to come out, while Sarah, still grieving and full of doubt about maternity without Matt, shuts herself in her house alone, in a suburban community that her neighbour describes as “a ghost town on nights like this.” Indeed, there is a strange Woman (Laura Harring) haunting Sarah’s evening, at first outside but soon in, with her own perverse designs on what Sarah carries within herself – and we notice that the inside of the car, of the house, of the bathroom in which Sarah locks herself, (eventually) of a swimming pool, and naturally of Sarah’s gravid belly, all echo and reflect one another as interior spaces from which this home invasion thriller must gradually emerge.

As an English-language remake of Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo‘s punishing debut À l’Intérieur (2007), one of the key films of the New French Extremity, Inside must also eventually escape the confines of its origins. Of course that opening scene in the car is now impacted by the intervening influence of The Babadook (2014) with its similar prologue, so that, even as this new version removes the ambiguous status of the Woman as an embodiment of Death herself come to claim what is hers, it still has the semblance of a psychological ghost story, with the Woman the dark half that Sarah must confront and defeat in order to embrace her own motherhood.

As director of the uncompromisingly vicious Kidnapped (2010), Miguel Ángel Vivas might seem the right pair of hands to deliver this baby, and for the first two thirds, he follows Maury and Bustillo’s prescribed narrative pretty closely – but then, even as he takes these familiar events both outside and to new womb-like locales for a rebirth, if anything he gives them a happier, more sanitised ending. Both versions are set on the eve of Christmas, that holiday of miraculous births, but the merry timing in this instance comes with more sincerity and less bitter irony. Inside is not at all bad, but fans of the original (or indeed of Kidnapped) will miss both those films’ visceral cruelty and despairing bleakness.   

strap: Miguel Ángel Vivas’ home invasion thriller, a remake of À L’INTÉRIEUR (2007), eventually abandons its interiors and heads outside

Anton Bitel