19 April 2011

Fin's Review: Inside

A critic reviewing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the first time described the film as a 'scab-picking of the human spirit'. I include this quote not because I agree with it - I feel that you can defend The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on a number of levels - but because it is indicative of a much wider feeling many people have towards horror films. As a fan of the genre you spend a lot of time defending it, both from people who view the whole genre as nihilistic and psychologically damaging and from those who simply view it as weird. For the majority of time this defence is easy; I could talk for hours about the positive and life affirming message of The Exorcist, the artistic flare and vision of Dario Argento, the emotional power of films such as The Orphange and Let The Right One In or even the pure mindless fun of Friday The 13th... I could go on and on. However, there are times when you are presented with films that are clearly abhorrent and do seem to revel in the humiliation and degradation of the human condition - films such as The Hostel and Cannibal Holocaust spring to mind. There are finally a third type of film: the horror films which are perhaps the most challenging for an advocate of the genre. These are the films that you feel truly ambivalent towards and which make you question the validity and worth of the entire horror canon. Ally's choice on Thursday, the French horror Inside, was one such film.

I had heard a lot of buzz about this film in the last few years with Inside topping the lists of best horror film of the decade a number of times. Many horror critics had described this film as one of the scariest films in years and as result anticipation was high on Thursday night. Ultimately I did not like this film and do not think it deserves much of the plaudits it is receiving. I think the most important reason that I did not like this film was that it was simply not scary. There are really only two scenes that were creepy one right at the beginning of the film and the other the final shot the film squeezed between these two moments was poor. Critics who have dismissed this film have described it as a gorno a sub-section of horror that has absolutely no worth and which has been really damaging to the development of the genre. I disagree with this assessment and feel that it is unfair to include this film as a gorno it is much better than that. Whereas gorno films focus on human suffering to the exclusion of story or acting often with a heavy misogynist undertones and unlike traditional horror films have absolutely nothing to say beyond the sadism and pain on screen. Inside was much better than this it was really well shot and the lighting was fantastic and the acting performances were universally excellent. The story focusing on loss and grief was portrayed brilliantly by both protagonists. However despite these positive points the fact that many consider this film gorno highlights the fact that at times the film comes dangerously close to this description.

This film had not been on for long on Thursday night before I realised that I couldn't wait for it to be over. Never a good sign. Largely this was due to the violence on screen, not necessarily because of its graphic nature but because of the excessive use of pointless violence. It became boring very quickly. The issue of violence is a tricky one in horror films and it can seem odd to criticize one film for being violent when almost all horror movies are violent. However, there is violence to advance and enhance the story, and there is violence for violence's sake.

It is much easier to make a gory graphic film than a scary film with an engaging story, and sometimes I think viewers and directors confuse the two. I can deal with violence in a horror film if it is used as part of the story and has a purpose. The violence in Inside was so excessive and constant that once the shock passed it became frustrating. I think this highlights a serious point about the film: ultimately, it has absolutely nothing to say. Once you look past the undoubted technical skill of both the actors and directors, what are you left with is a film with a paper-thin story that tries to overcome this by constant graphic meaningless violence.

Would I recommend this film? No. There too many great horror films to waste your time with this gallic gore fest.

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