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Inside remake (Movie Review)

Inside remake (Movie Review)
6 10

PLOT: On Christmas Eve, the home of a pregnant widow is invaded by a homicidal woman who wants to steal her unborn child.

REVIEW: The 2007 French film INSIDE, the breakthrough feature for the directing duo of Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, is one my favorite horror films of the last fifteen years, despite the fact that it's also one of the most depressing. It's a blood-soaked exercise in bleak nihilism with one of the most twisted and terrifying concepts imaginable: a woman invades a pregnant widow's home with the intention of tearing the baby out of her stomach. INSIDE was an extreme film, so it's fitting that it was released under the Dimension Extreme banner in the U.S.

The odds were against an INSIDE remake ever being able to live up to the original. That type of intensity can't be reproduced, and you just know the violence is going to be watered down. I held out hope for this one, though, because it was coming from an interesting creative team - it was being made by a Spanish production company rather than a Hollywood studio, the screenplay was written by [REC] co-creator Jaume Balagueró and his [REC] 2 and 4 co-writer Manu Diez, and KIDNAPPED director Miguel Ángel Vivas was at the helm. KIDNAPPED is a film that I don't even like because it has such a disappointing downer of an ending, but that's the sort of filmmaker I would want to see another version of INSIDE in the hands of. Someone who might not feel the need to pull back.

Unfortunately, the creative team didn't come through on this one. This remake didn't come from Hollywood, but it feels very Hollywoodized. It does everything you would expect a studio remake of INSIDE to do - it dilutes the violence, it has a safer tone, it expands the scope and adds in bigger action set pieces.

You know there were wrong-headed decisions being made here as soon as the film begins. Like the original, it starts with the car accident that makes the pregnant woman a widow, but while Maury and Bustillo's film just showed us shots of cars that had run into each other head-on, this one goes full spectacle by showing us an impact that sends one of the vehicles flying and flipping like Stuntman Mike's Chevy Nova in DEATH PROOF. It screams out that this one had a bigger stunt budget, but in doing so makes itself less effective, and just left me thinking "That was unnecessary."

After that, the film spends some time letting us get to know the widow character, Rachel Nichols as Sarah Clark. The casting of Nichols is one of the movie's greatest strengths, as she's one of my favorite modern actresses and she does a fine job in the role. There's one point when Sarah is reacting to someone's death where Nichols' performance is so emotional and real that it really got to me and almost made the tears start rolling.

It's also beneficial that Balagueró and Diez would tweak characters and scenarios to keep fans of the original film on their toes. While it plays out in much the same way and has almost the same body count as the movie fans know, this isn't just a beat-by-beat remake, it doesn't involve all the same people. Balagueró and Diez toy with your expectations a bit, even giving a cheeky nod to your familiarity with its predecessor by having Sarah say she doesn't want to have a C-section because she doesn't want "to be cut open". A character who was a touchy creep with women in the original is now a gay man, so you know his scenes with the killer are going to be different. When the mysterious woman arrives at Sarah's bedside equipped with chloroform, an IV bag, and a case of tools rather than the scissors and a jar of alcohol the '07 film's woman had, you'll be wondering how Sarah can possibly get out of this situation so the rest of the story can occur.

The homicidal woman is one of the film's weaknesses. It's not the fault of actress Laura Harring, it's the writing. This version of the woman talks a lot. Too much. She goes on and on at times, spouting dialogue that is completely useless. She'd be a scarier villain if she wasn't so chatty.

Eventually, Balagueró, Diez, and Vivas really throw fans for a loop when they have Sarah and the woman exit the house for the climax... and at first I was going along with this choice, because it seemed like they were going to have the film end in a clever, book-ending way. But instead the action outside the house just continues on through another location before the film comes to an ending in a way that is absolutely gutless in comparison to what Maury and Bustillo did.

As a remake, this INSIDE is a letdown in exactly the ways you'd fear a remake might let you down. The murder scenes are neutered, any sense of urgency was lost. If you've seen the original INSIDE, you've seen the superior version of the story, so there's little reason to seek this out. If you haven't seen the original, you should watch that instead of the remake. But if you set aside the original and want to watch a safe, run-of-the-mill thriller, you might get some enjoyment out of this one. I can't condemn it too harshly, because it's not terrible. It's just thoroughly mediocre.

If you do watch the INSIDE remake, I would recommend seeking out a 2007 film called P2 and watching that first. P2 also starred Rachel Nichols, and in that movie she was menaced, pursued, and captured by a parking garage security guard on Christmas Eve. Now here she is, playing a woman who is menaced, pursued, and captured by a crazy woman on Christmas Eve. As you're watching the new INSIDE, one way to keep yourself amused and entertained is to imagine that this isn't a disappointing remake of INSIDE, but rather a sequel to P2 - a lesser, DIE HARD 2, "how can the same shit happen to the same person twice?" sort of sequel. Pretending this is P2 II might be the most fun way to take it in.

Extra Tidbit: Vertical Entertainment is releasing INSIDE in theatres and on demand January 12th.

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