“2,500 people are reported missing every day in America alone. Royal Canadian Mounted Police had figures of 60,582 children in 2007.”
What would you do if you acquired, by whatever means, a video camera with footage of something terrible, something with death, torture, murder, sex, mutilation, rape, and worse? The people involved may be in a place you know, just down the street, now a place unfamiliar, looking not of this Earth. “Report it to the police,” you say impulsively. Yes, you probably would. But, what about someone else—someone thinking differently than yourself, someone with more curiosity and a sense of adventure, if not outright stupidity? Would you (yes, you!) be tempted to first watch the footage to the end, with guilty pleasure, before turning it in? It could, after all, be the best found-footage film ever, with originality transcending the genre and avoiding clichés. “No, not me,” you insist, “and, please, not another found-footage film!” But wait! Getting inside The Inside (the latest film from writer/director Eoin Macken) is certainly the place for voyeurs, good samaritans, murderers, and all among us. Wherever The “Inside” may be, it is certainly a place of horror and ultimate nightmares, ripe with ways to abandon banality. Within this Hell is a place for everyone.
What’s it all about? A man gets a video camera as partial payment for a ring he sells at a pawn shop. On the camera, he discovers, is footage of something terrible. Watching the video with him, we see the story within the story: a group of six, twenty-something thrill seekers go to an abandoned warehouse for a night of drinking and partying, with the excuse of celebrating a birthday. Yes, even sex is part of this birthday party, for better or worse. The human and supernatural horror they find (or that finds them) is the story’s true nightmare.
To be truly successful, a found-footage film must first do something most difficult. It must find a reason for people to carry a camera and record events, with devotion, for the average 90 minutes of a movie. What’s more difficult, in horror, is finding a reason for people to record events, when their life is in danger and death is imminent—all the more imminent because they are recording the event. Yes! Most people would put a camera down (if not throw it down), long before the final moments of the movie. If a film cannot overcome what is typical from the beginning, it is a failure to the end, no matter what qualities exist otherwise, no matter how scary it may be. All things considered, The Inside is easily one of the most realistic found-footage films ever made. (Yes, you can quote me on that!) It does find reasons for its characters (partiers and criminals alike) to hold a camera. Further, it finds reasons, believable all the more so because they are expected. Later, when the going gets tough (and I mean really tough!), the movie hangs on to motives that are practical, even if not probable for the duration.
“27% of missing persons are never found or explained.”
But wait! As much of a compliment as it may be—“one of the most realistic found-footage films ever made”—it can also be a curse. Let’s face it. Any realistic found-footage film, especially one with people in peril, must be a hot mess of a shaky cam on steroids, too much for the most advanced in image stabilization (as The Inside certainly is, mostly). The camera pans frenetically as it would, held by most people, from left to right, up and down, and often away from scenes we want to see. Some scenes (of nearly 14 minutes) were shot in a single take, with no editing, further highlighting the handheld POV. Occasional blackouts and technical glitches affect the video, giving us, at times, nothing but sound; a cacophony of arguing and yelling is sometimes all there is. Of course, this greatly limits (if not eliminates) the visual story, if it doesn’t turn the stomachs of some viewers. So, the next obstacle to overcome, ironically, is the problem realism creates. (Yes, imagine realism as a problem!) Using limited camera perspectives to get “the right shot,” just the perfect morsel for the mind, is the only solution. In The Inside, director Eoin Macken indeed makes the most of what is limited. A shot of a woman’s head alone, on the floor, recorded by chance, shows us more than camera’s from multiple angles. Focusing on her face and nothing else tells us everything. Because of realism in this scene and others, The Inside may also be one of the scariest found-footage movies ever made. While the body count rises, cinematography is alive and well.
Achieving more with less, in the spirit but not method of Hitchkockian classics, is the area where The Inside arguably thrives. No, we don’t see the reason that everyone bleeds, the source of everyone’s screams, and we never know the who, the what, or the why of the story’s happenings. Some characters even disappear without a trace, literally jerked from the scene. We also never see much of “The Creature” (be it human or monster, I don’t know) with the bloody feet, lurking, crawling, hunting in the darkness; we never learn more about it, and never feel dissatisfied knowing less. Growling in the distance, it suddenly appears in front of us, vaguely, hungry for a victim, showing all we need to fill in the blanks; something far more frightening is in our minds.
Without adding the supernatural, The Inside would already be violent enough. The vagrant intruders are the worst kind of monsters, arguably worse than the most evil spirits. (Yes, human monsters are hard to top!) Adding the supernatural, events become exponentially out of control…and, yes, even more violent. I always like movies that begin in one genre and end up in another. The Inside begins in one, goes to another, and ends in yet another. Nice!
As for the acting, it is consistent with the movie otherwise; it is ultra-realistic. Standout performances are delivered by all, in a situation where screen time is limited and fleeting. The group of young people headed to Hell include Vanessa Emme (Louise), Tereza Srbová (Cara), Kellie Blaise (Sienna), Natalia Kostrzewa (Sian), Siobhan Cullen (Corina), and Sean Stewart (Barry). The homicidal homeless trio is played with frightening realism by Brian Fortune, Emmett J Scanlan, and Karl Argue. In the commentary supplement, director Eoin Macken actually talks about being concerned, at times, with how the acting was nearly too good, coming close to exceeding the limits, and going “over the line.” In watching the scene in question, it is easy to see how the actors are, in fact, at the limit at least. As for which scene it is, you will know when you see it. It looked so real that it made me uncomfortable…and that’s hard to do. In another scene, I squirmed as I watched something injected in a woman’s neck! Here, the combination of found footage and great acting make the violence all the more real and effective.
“There are few things worse than man; but there are some things worse than death.” ~ The Inside
Special effects, I am happy to say, are all practical and all well done. With such a realistic style otherwise, computer-generated effects could have greatly diminished (if not totally destroyed) the movie’s success. While most effects are briefly on screen, animation, with the possibility of looking so to those who expect it, would be too risky. Kudos to all involved for taking no chances and keeping it real.
A pensive piano soundtrack by Whymsonics, adds sudden high and low tones, appropriately haunting after moments of silence. The music compliments rather than distracts from the story, highlighting dread in our minds, subtly but powerfully. Throughout the movie, I was rarely aware of the music, but always affected by it.
As mentioned, the DVD includes a commentary supplement–a picture-in-picture video with director Eoin Macken, and actors Vanessa Emme and Brian Fortune, watching the movie, in real time. It’s done in a very relaxed environment, in front of a TV, topped off with wine, humor and lots of insight behind the scenes. Normally, I don’t watch all of a movie’s commentary; but here, humor and information together make it entertaining as well as informative. Just hearing about how the actors dealt with the difficult location and extreme scenes was worth more than the time. Brian Fortune talks about his role as the violent vagrant, and how it takes days to “come down off” the murderous mindset. The beautiful (and now Space Jockey favorite) Vanessa Emme makes us think twice about the difficulties of acting and walking in darkness. (Yes, the uneven floors don’t help things, but a “place of helplessness” certainly does.) Emme’s personality alone makes it worth watching again, with her comments as a bonus! Also included is a making-of-the-movie featurette, with much more behind the scenes. Found-footage films have some of the most interesting supplements to add, when done well. Here, they are certainly done well and both are highly recommend.
If you really love found-footage films, you will love The Inside; if you really hate such films, then you will really hate The Inside. (Shaky cam loathers look elsewhere!) That’s just the straight truth, and there is no (I repeat NO) middle ground here. The Inside is the purest of raw, uncut reality, straight from the camera and the hands of those who filmed it. Be it for memories, cruelty, or survival, we, as horror fans, are the benefactors of their motives.
Yes! Hell is on The Inside. That place next door, not so far away, is Hell much closer than it should be. The Inside is a place where demons giggle like children, as everyone dies screaming. It delivers that message in subtle ways, overtly and oxymoronic, hitting us hard with what is familiar and what is not. Yes! Hell might be just around the corner, a place you know well on the outside; with one wrong turn, The Inside might be your destination—a place where nightmares burn your soul and reality is Hell! 😀
The Inside is directed by Eoin Macken, and stars Eoin Macken (Merlin), Tereza Srbová (Sirens, Eastern Promises), Vanessa Emme (The Anti Love Pill, The Shadows, Ghostwood), Kellie Blaise (The Red Line, The O’Briens), Siobhan Cullen (The Clinic, The Crooked Mile), Emmett J Scanlan (Brendan Brady in Hollyoaks, Charlie Casanova), Sean Stewart (Occi, Coward), Natalia Kostrzewa (The Clinic), Brian Fortune (Game of Thrones), Karl Argue (Badlanders, Doghouse) and Patrick Moynan as “The Creature.”