Review by Jacquelin Hipes
It’s a difficult task to evaluate the remake of a film without making comparisons to the original. Julien Maurey and Alexandre Bustillo’s 2007 French New Wave horror film À l’intérieur packed in some brutal scares in a refreshing take on the home invasion thriller. Considering the success it found with horror fans, an Americanized remake was all but inevitable. This Spanish/American co-production from director Miguel Ángel Vivas follows most of the same story beats (albeit with less bite) as its predecessor, then descends into a disappointing series of clichés for the final act.
Single mother-to-be Sarah (Rachel Nichols) is spending Christmas Eve alone, still mourning the death of her husband in a car accident several months prior. As night falls and a storm moves in, a stranger knocks at her door insisting to be let in. The unknown woman (Laura Harring) knows Sarah’s name and that her excuse of a sleeping husband is a lie. Rattled, Sarah calls the police, who find no one during their initial search but promise to return later on a wellness check. When the stranger reappears she manages to break into the house, terrorizing Sarah and a succession of concerned visitors as she fixates not on the mother, but the child she’s carrying.
For the first two-thirds of its runtime, Inside reproduces the story beats of the original film with moderate success. Running 15 minutes longer than its French counterpart, that excess time gets filled by needless exposition and some unsubtle foreshadowing. Nichols moves across the screen with the desperation of a woman both hampered and motivated by her full-term belly, while Harring channels the severity of an impatient nurse saddled with an unruly patient. Both women play off one another well and tension is at its highest when the two are allowed to tussle.
What amounted to a competent remake falls apart, however, in the final act. Intermediate victims stumble through the story like so much cannon fodder. There is a difference between a character dying because their adversary is superior in some way and dying simply because the script demands a staggering level of stupidity from them. Most (but not all) of the kills in Inside can be credited to the latter, with victims so outlandishly dim-witted you’re almost grateful when they’re finally dispatched. Thankfully that doesn’t extend to our heroine Sarah, although her labor pains do conveniently come and go depending on how agile she needs to be.
Maurey and Bustillo had the nerve to go “There”, that vaguely defined region in storytelling most likely to shock even the most jaded consumers. It was that boldness of conclusion and the brutality leading up to it that earned À l’intérieur such praise, and Vivas abandons it all for a cookie-cutter final confrontation. Maybe it’s a calculation that will pay off. Horror had a bumper year in 2017, and these familiar conventions may be exactly what a wider audience prefers. For fans of the original, though, there isn’t any reason to trade in for the slicker—and simpler—model.