One thing I plan to do with the new incarnation of Sketchy Details is to review a horror film every Saturday. It's a nod to the idea of a midnight movie.
It would be pointless to describe the plot of the 2007 French horror film À l'intérieur since it really does not have one. A pregnant woman is tortured the night before her scheduled delivery. That's the whole film. If this sounds like an appealing concept at surface value, then by all means enjoy this film. Plenty of horror fans claim it to be one of the best horror films to come around in years; I don't.
To me, À l'intérieur represents everything that can go wrong with the horror genre. There are no characters. There is no plot. There exists but a flimsy premise designed to showcase disgusting acts of violence in as brutal a method as possible. Any hint of subtext, nuance, or intelligence is immediately forgotten as the blood is applied thicker and thicker over the victims.
The opening scene holds promise. An impressive CGI fetus is shown in the womb. The peaceful scene is destroyed as the mother crashes her car and the unborn child violently smashes towards the screen. It's a unique perspective that matches the stylistic, but one-dimensional, approach to horror in this film. This CGI flourish is then used in every situation where it appears the filmmakers got stuck in a corner and could not continue filming around the circumstances without an extremely awkward edit.
Where prior films in the new wave of brutal French horror attempted to tackle deeper psychological, emotional, and societal issues through the bloody lens of horror, À l'intérieur is satisfied with unwarranted violence. The reactions of the characters to attacks by scissors, knitting needles, and flames are realistic; the motivations and context of these brief flights of reality are not. There is no justification for the actions of one character against another. If I hit a computer key while blogging, a letter will appear on the screen. Placing letters in the correct order and context produces words. If I just randomly hit keys (aduiot8-0 25= kl';s'a 855+6 sfd5a 4654u3 2 ), there is no justification; they are just letters. Nothing worthwhile comes from the effort.
When a horror film takes the perspective of a victim, a prey, a survivor, the filmmakers have two choices: make us root for this victim, or make us root for the killer. À l'intérieur does nothing to make the pregnant woman likable. She is a bitter, nasty woman who takes pleasure in photographing the riots engulfing France even when she is about to give birth. She rejects invitations to spend the night at her mother and her boss's homes on Christmas Eve when she knows they'll have to show up to her home early the next morning to take her to the hospital. She fantasizes that her unborn child is trying to kill her and does not even seem involved in her pregnancy. She is driven by fear and disgust.
By the time a stranger appears at her door begging to be let in, I no longer cared what happened to her. The stranger is even less of a character than the pregnant woman. She is evil. She is crazy. She wants the baby. She will stop at nothing to get it. That is it. There is a twist in the last five minutes that attempts to justify almost an hour of torture, but it makes the events even less compelling. At least with the concept of this woman being insane there is a sense of dread; what is more horrifying than the unknown? Instead, the useless twist attempts to change the perspective of the film in a way that could not work unless we actually cared about the pregnant woman.
Perspective is the principle issue with the film. À l'intérieur seems to lack any genuine direction. There is nothing to latch onto. There is no purpose other than showcases state of the art gore under taboo circumstances. The references to riots is a trick to make it seem like the film has a greater message; do not be fooled.
À l'intérieur is solely for fans of gore. If you require a plot or characters or any sense of believability in film, stay away. I wish I had.