Inside (A l’interieur) and film nihilism – SPOILERS

August 25, 2008 at 4:18 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

Always in search of the next horror movie that will genuinely freak me out, last night me and a friend of mine watched Inside (A l’interieur) a French flick that received good notices from both reviewers and gorehounds. Starring the once-lovely now-slightly haunted looking Beatrice Dalle and Alysson Paradis is the harrowing tale of 9 months pregnant Sarah (Paradis) besieged in her home by a mysterious woman in black who wants her baby and will cut it out of her if she must. Sarah lost her husband in a car crash 4 months ago and is grieving and surly to everyone around her and probably not that sure that she’s glad the baby survived.

Inside’s grand guignol is truly inspiring. Blood spurts, its jets, it comes out in flowing streams of every artery, vein and organ covering the walls in Pollock-esque designs. The actresses are superb in their cat and mouse game. But unfortunately that’s where my praise ends. The motivation for La Femme’s rampage is laughable. Her characterization is pegged somewhere between traumatized woman and impenetrable super-villain caricature. This woman will not or cannot die. Every character in the film is guilty of making the stupidest possible decisions at each possible moment. Several people have their backs turned to open doorways, drop loaded guns, don’t call for backup and one inexplicably comes back to life after being shot in the head. The plot holes are numerous and in the end….

SPOILER

SPOILER

La Femme, with half of her face melted off due to an earlier self-defense attack from Sarah, cuts her stomach open with a pair of house scissors, reaches into her belly and pulls out the baby along with the surrounding viscera while Sarah squirms. This is after La Femme kicks Sarah in the face multiple times, cuts her cheek with scissors and bashes her over the head with a toaster. The final scene is of the unnamed woman in a rocking chair with the baby.

In short, WTF? Critics nearly shat themselves over this film and I can’t imagine why except for the fact that it treads into serious taboos by violently dispatching a pregnant woman. Inside contains a host of interesting concepts – is La Femme a figment of Sarah’s imagination? a manifestation of her guilt about surviving? a statement about French violence and society (there’s a subplot about the banlieue riots)? pregnancy trauma and anxiety? – none of which it bothers to develop at all. The result, as my friend said, is that any genuine suspense that the plot generates devolves into the viewer’s tension at when the next gory death scene is coming.

I couldn’t shake the ending though which added nothing to the overall theme of the movie and seemed only to exist to be bleak for the sake of being bleak. Postmodern horror’s tendency to not allow for narrative closure has transformed into a misanthropic habit of not letting anyone out alive. I haven’t thought about what this trend means but it is precisely the type of cruel nihilism masked as a important social statement or realism that is pushing me away from this genre.

I had a similar feeling after learning that the original ending of The Descent had the main character dying in the cave while hallucinating about her dead daughter. There was alot of hubbub from international fans about how the original ending was better and that facile Americans can’t handle unhappy endings. I took this controversy for what it was worth – a bunch of smug Europeans lazily invoking the cliche of the bourgeouis, puritannical, multiplex loving American. The fact is that the movie is better served by the ending of the heroine reborn. What is the point of going through a grueling journey with these characters if nothing is going to come of it? This is not to say that it’s never appropriate for a main character to die but rather that the dying should serve some purpose in the story other than proclaiming that everything is pointless and so we should all go at each other like animals.

Happy and neutral endings are as much a part of real life as sad, traumatic and destructive ones. It’s hard not to feel suspicious about the fact that in both of these films women are the monsters or behaving monstrously and also the victims. In France, in this day and age, it’s really sad if the best gesture they can make towards realism is suggesting that women are constantly, brutally punished and worse, that they somehow deserve it.

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