Inside (2016)

JANUARY 2, 2019


I usually bristle when they remake a recent foreign language horror film for seemingly no other reason than to do it in English, but at least they waited about a decade to do it with Inside, as opposed to the insulting turnaround times for the likes of Shutter (not even four years) and Let Me In (barely two!). Plus it wasn't just a greedy big studio behind it - this Inside is an independenta Spanish co-production, with [Rec] fave Jaume Balagueró writing and producing (a guy who'd know about quickie English language remakes), giving it more "on paper" cred than the likes of, say, The Stepfather '09. And as a bonus, they cast Rachel Nichols from my beloved P2 as the pregnant mother - add all that up and you should have a redux that's at least worth a look, right?

Well... they kind of cleared that not-exactly lofty goal, I guess. It's not a bad movie, but it's so beholden to the original's beats (not its specifics, more on that later) that the only reason to see it would be if you haven't seen the original. I prefer my remakes to keep the basic scenario but change just about everything else (Dawn of the Dead being the easiest example, though the recent Suspiria is also an easy one to point to, albeit less accessible), but this only diverges slightly from the Bustillo/Maury original, so if you've seen it there's little surprise to be found here, and you'll keep asking yourself why they bothered. Suspense/home invasion movies like this tend to not lend themselves to repeat viewings anyway, and that's what this kind of feels like; even when they change things up a bit, they tend to fall right back in line with the story we already knew... and likely preferred.

But in theory, it should actually be the better film, ironically enough, as they excise the original's two biggest blunders (skip the next three paragraphs if you haven't seen the original!). For starters, we aren't subjected to horrible CGI shots of the baby being jostled around inside the womb (to be fair, the original's directors didn't want them either - they were forced to add them by the producers), so that's a blessing. The other thing they thankfully get rid of is the number of cops (and the suspect!) who come over and figure out what's going on - this time around, there's no suspect at all, nor does one of them survive their initial injuries but attack Sarah thinking she was the villain. That chunk of the original nearly derailed the movie for me, so I was happy these folks seemed to feel the same, removing it without putting anything else in its place. The stuff with the cops is simplified and, for what it's worth, superior.

Their other changes aren't as successful, unfortunately. One intriguing one is that Sarah has lost her hearing as the result of her injuries from the car crash, but very little is done with it - it's mostly just an easy way to keep her from alerting a friend that stops by (because she isn't even aware he's there until she replaces her hearing aid battery, at which point he's out the door anyway), and rarely used otherwise. Also, this time The Woman (Laura Harring) has set up shop across the street in a half-finished house, so she can take pictures and such, but the only reason this exists, best I can tell, is to give them a second location to go to for part of the film's climax, which is always a dumb move in these things anyway. It's a home invasion movie - why is it all building toward two people fighting elsewhere? Hell they don't even stay in THAT house - they go outside for the final fight. So now it's a Yard Invasion movie.

In fact the ending is drastically different, so if you ignored my earlier spoiler warning then DEFINITELY skip this paragraph because it spoils them both! In the original, in keeping with the French New Wave Horror's sensibilities of being grim af, Sarah dies and The Woman gets the baby after all - this time it's the other way around, so it kind of just ends as you'd expect it to as opposed to something more interesting or daring. Worse, they fight to the death inside a covered swimming pool, so when The Woman is subdued Sarah swims to the top and pushes through a cut in the tarp to emerge from the watery enclosure - even the baby in Sarah's belly would probably roll its eyes about the corny symbolism. Then she just delivers the baby herself, robbing us of one of the original's intriguing elements: that The Woman becomes a protector and nurse during the delivery. They never have that sort of "bond" here, and I actually missed it - because otherwise it's just another crazy person trying to kill our hero (it doesn't help that we already had a ripoff of Inside called Visions, which gave us the happy ending version already).

Now, when doing a review of a remake I try to avoid too much "this is how it differed" stuff and try to judge it on its own terms, but when it's so close to a movie I've seen (let alone really loved) it's hard to separate. Any review I write will be from the mindset of someone who has seen x number of horror movies, and their job should be to make me think this is one I haven't basically seen yet. At no point was I able to forget that I was watching a remake, as Balagueró and director Miguel Ángel Vivas (who also co-wrote) never gave it enough of its own identity to let me get sucked into it (perhaps Balagueró was inspired by the impressive box office of Quarantine, which also changed precious little). There are times when it feels like things might go a different way, such as the introduction of a gay couple who lives next door (more or less filling in the role of the coworker), but they're dispatched before having much of a chance to do anything differently. Even the specifics barely change - the cop once again leaves the house thinking everything is fine before realizing that the woman he talked to wasn't pregnant. Like, they couldn't think of a different reason to have him go back (or just not leave in the first place)? It's fine to use the same setups if you have new punchlines, so that viewers can all enjoy whether they've seen the original or not, but here it's like the opposite - the setups occasionally change but it always ends the same way.

So it's like one of those Telltale interactive games, where they say you have a choice between saving Person A or Person B and regardless of what you choose, they kill Person B because that's how the main story needs to go (Person A will just be kind of a dick to you for not trying to save them). And by design it's not like we can fall in love with these versions of the characters, as they're not around long enough to get attached to any of them except Sarah. As for her, again I'm always happy to watch Ms. Nichols, but she's not given much to do here beyond look startled, look around for something to fight with, etc. She gets in a couple of good lines near the end (both the result of trying to stall The Woman while waiting for the right moment to strike), and they have softened her a bit from Alysson Paradis' version, though as with the ending that just gives the film less of a personality overall. So she's stuck kind of just going through the same "trapped with a psycho" stuff we saw her do in P2, so it's double the deja vu.

The good news is, it's watchable and decent enough on its own, and unlike the original it's not "tough to watch", so if you're squeamish there's finally a way for you to get through this story! It's got some gore (including a borderline darkly comic moment where someone is seemingly using their own pouring blood as a weapon of sorts), but nothing that would give the MPAA much of a problem - this movie won't have you worried about scissors, anyway. Indeed, I can't help but think this was meant to be a wider theatrical release at some point and all of these changes were made to make the film more accessible to mainstream audiences, only to see it get an even more buried release than the French original (which at least got Dimension behind a big video push for their Dimension Extreme label). I wasn't even aware the damn thing had even come out until I found it while scrolling around on Hulu (which I just got) for something to watch to fall asleep to. Considering Vivas made the incredibly grim Kidnapped (which makes the original Inside look like, uh, this one) I can't help but wonder if they had gnarlier ideas that were left off the table in favor of chasing ticket sales, but I also suspect that would just mean they'd make an even closer clone. So instead we get this watchable but forgettable version that exists mainly for Nichols' devotees and people who don't like to read.

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. I thought the greatest part of the original (I loved it all btw) was discovering that our "Heroine" didn't even want the baby and that shockingly the Woman would make the better mother! Genus, what a way to change up audiences loyalties at the last minute. Still haven't seen this remake but will give it a chance if it lands on my lap. 🤘👶


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