A l’Interieur (Inside), directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, was one of a wave of extra-strong French horror films. It seems so raw and immediate it’s a shock to look it up and realise it was released ten years ago. Now, it’s joined the ranks of foreign language horror hits to earn a watered-down English language remake – though Inside isn’t an American film, but a Spanish production scripted by Jaume Balaguero and Manu Diez of the [REC] franchise and directed by Miguel Angel Vivas, who made the very ordinary home invasion shocker Secuestrados (Kidnapped).
The whole thing isn’t blanded out enough for afternoon viewing on Channel 5, but there is a sense of downscaling. It’s pretty much on the model of the redo of Martyrs – the bare bones of the transgressive storyline are still here, the performances are decent (if low-key), and some of the suspense mechanics still work, but the last act is rejigged to allow for a slightly more conventional outcome. As before, a heavily pregnant young widow (Rachel Nichols) is alone in her home on Christmas Eve, and finds herself persecuted by a black-clad older woman (Laura Harring) who is intent on forcing her to give birth and stealing the baby. A few people get in the way and become incidental casualties, upping the body count, and there are late-in-the-day revelations which fill in some of the backstory without making anyone change their mind.
I get the impression projects like these fall to folks who feel obliged for career reasons to go through with them, though the remake paradox is inescapable – diverge from the original and get hammered for not being as good (in this case, not being as horrifying), but stay faithful and what was the point? There are many tweaks, but you’d be hard pressed to find a single improvement – in one of the best, creepiest moments of the French film, a kindly middle-aged neighbour turns up in the middle of the stalking and mistakes the Woman (Beatrice Dalle) for the heroine’s mother … then starts flirting with her, which prompts an interesting, unexpected reaction from the dangerous psychopath. Here, the neighbour is rewritten as gay, the spark of attraction isn’t there and the scene is just a conventional speed bump on the film’s course to a routine face-off between heroine and monster. Harring, too little-seen since her breakout in Mulholland Dr., is interesting casting as a Dalle analogue, but literally lacks the French star’s attack in the role. And Nichols is just bland and blonde. The setting of a rainy, underpopulated suburban housing development is unnerving and there are a couple of decent jumps … but I can’t see this winning many admirers.