THE INSIDE: out on DVD 25th March
RUNNING TIME: 88 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
A man pawns a ring and comes out of the shop with some cash and a video camera. He starts watching footage that has been left in the camera. It is of a group of girls planning to celebrate the 21st birthday of Corina. They plan to record everything on film. Corina is blindfolded and taken by the others to an abandoned and ramshackle warehouse. They meet with pal Barry and start drinking heavily, then are nastily interrupted by the arrival of three men whose intent to rape the women. Barry tries to fight them off and is killed, but it seems that, as the ordeal gets underway, something else is lurking in the building. Humans are not the only danger about…..
Unlike my fellow writer Matt Wavish, who is a fan of this type of film, I’ve always had mixed feelings about Found Footage films. Too often it seems overly contrived, even in today’s obsession with recording everything, and just an excuse for bad filmmaking, while all that shaking of the camera about is often immensely irritating and sometimes worse: I’ll never forget walking out the cinema after seeing Quarantine because for the next four hours I had an awful headache which almost turned me off watching Found Footage for good. I’m glad it didn’t though, because every now and again a film comes along which proves how effective this kind of film can be in the right hands, for example Cloverfield and Chronicle [and come to think of it the much maligned The Devil Inside wasn’t half bad either, though Matt and I seem to be unique in really liking that film].
The Inside [yeah, original title aye?] isn’t quite up to the level of the finest Found Footage films, and it certainly won’t convert those who can’t stand this kind of film. If you’re a fan though, you’ll most likely love it and can probably add a star at the bottom of this review. Like The Fallow Field, also released by Monster Pictures, it was actually made in 2009 and has struggled to get released, but, like that film, you can’t really use this fact as an indication of the film’s quality or lack thereof. All the things you expect and maybe sometimes dread from Found Footage can be found in The Inside; shakycam [the bane of my existence in cinema, though it’s use can be somewhat justified in Found Footage], the camera going ‘wrong’ at certain moments, believable but rather annoying young protagonists who bicker and bicker, a lack of explanation for what the hell is going on, etc. However, all these ingredients ended up as something pretty good with The Inside. For one thing, and this is probably the most important ingredient in a horror movie, it’s actually quite scary.
Actually not all of The Inside is Found Footage. After some chilling writing tells us things like “2’500 people reported missing every day in America alone”, we open with rather evocative shots of night-time Dublin as a female radio DJ tells of some missing girls and warns people to be careful out there. We see someone [actually the director Eoin Macken who also wrote, edited and produced this film] obtaining the video camera, sometimes intercut with POV shots of somebody running from something. These first few minutes are a little clumsily and even confusingly handled, but we soon get into the actual ‘footage’. It’s of course very convenient that the girls plan to record everything on film…”till we run out of tape or get hammered”, one says, and why do they pick such an awful place to party? They don’t shut up for a minute these obnoxious, deafening [though very believable!] young females, and after a while I wished something would turn up very soon to shut them up. Well, something does, and when it does the proceedings get very intense indeed. There’s a real sense of human evil as the three cruel men threaten and even rape the girls, the constant yelling annoying but adding to the intensity. The violence, even of the sexual kind, is not shown in much detail and some may be disappointed that some rather gory stuff appears to take place in some scenes of the film but we don’t actually see it, though it didn’t bother me.
Then things change again with a scene that scared the hell out of me, as a supernatural element begins to take over. Let’s just say that when you think you’re watching a brutal rape and suddenly the camera goes all ‘funny’, watch out! I can’t get that bloody goat-like demon face out of my mind and for the rest of the film you’ll be on edge wondering where he’s going to pop up next. One bit where it’s in the background sent shivers not just down my spine but all over my body. Amidst all the running around in dark locales which is sometimes reminiscent of the superb The Descent, there’s also a blood-covered man lurking about, demonic patterns on a wall, and sounds like a baby crying, and it all seems a bit random and hastily thrown together, even when the video footage ends and the unnamed man at the beginning decides on the bright idea of retracing the steps of one of the girls back to the warehouse. Don’t expect much in the way of answers, nor this guy to be much of a hero, and at times I wondered if this final segment was necessary, but it’s very suspenseful all the same even if the final scene seems cheap.
I would absolutely hate to see The Inside on a cinema screen. This film probably features more epileptic shaking and whirling around of the camera about then any other film I’ve ever seen. Even when the girls sit down to tell stories, the person doing the filming still waves the camera all over the place and just can’t keep it still for a moment. I know this style of filming is part of what Found Footage is about, but in this film it’s ridiculously excessive for at least the first third when nobody is running around. Saying that, there’s a great bit where the camera sits still on a rock and observes someone trying to hide from her pursuer. The cinematography does manage to make the location a really forbidding place, and it’s all is enhanced by creepy sound effects and rather unnerving minimalist scoring from Kevin Whyms, though of course if you think about it most of the film shouldn’t actually have a score at all.
The Inside benefits greatly from acting that is several cuts above what you often get in films like this. Emmett J. Scanlan [yes, the one from Hollyoaks] is really strong as the most menacing of the intruders and I’m always happy to see the gorgeous Tereza Srboza [Eastern Promises] in a film. The characters always come across as convincing. The whole film has a conviction about it which impressed, and this just about steered me through the more irritating bits. Eoin Macken, who you will probably know more as an actor [Merlin] has an ability to frighten and certainly seems to love the horror genre. I hope The Inside doesn’t get lost amidst all the Paranormal Entity- type tripe that gives ‘straight-to-DVD’ Found Footage a bad name, and that he gets a chance to flex his muscles on another horror film, Found Footage or not.
The DVD from Monster Pictures includes:
* Exclusive feature length picture in picture commentary with Director Eoin Macken
* ‘Making of’ Documentary