Welcome back to another installment of the Chapter x Chapter series, a column where I take a deep dive into horror reading with a new review for each chapter of the book. The first book of this series is Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity by Alexandra West. If you're looking to start from the beginning, I recommend you check out my introduction.
We're nearing the end of our journey through the Films of New French Extremity. After this we have just one more chapter that features filmmakers of the NFE's ventures into U.S. remakes. I think it's fitting, then, that we cap off our last of the original NFE films with the very first one I'd ever seen, Alexadre Bustillo and Julien Maury's 2007 film A l'interieur (Inside). I remember at the time hearing buzz about some hardcore horror films coming out of France and thinking "I'm totally hardcore. I'll probably love them."
About halfway through Inside I realized that I am in fact not hardcore, and by the end of the movie I just kind of wanted my mommy. Which is appropriate considering, as Alexandra West explains, this movie is very much about motherhood and the ways in which we allow it to define womanhood. The movie focuses on Sarah, who has isolated herself at home after a car accident that claimed the life of her husband. She's isolated herself at home awaiting the birth of the child she conceived with him before he died. One night, a mysterious intruder known only as The Woman begins terrorizing Sarah and demanding her child.
Lately I've become more aware of our cultural tendency to conflate a person's identity as a woman with her identity as a mother. In almost any other piece of pop culture, Sarah's pregnancy would intrinsically act as a salve for the pain of the loss of her husband. So what are we to think in the case of Inside, where the child is actually an unwanted reminder of that loss and her trauma is exacerbated by The Woman's all-encompassing obsession to get Sarah's child?
On one hand, motherhood is a focal point for Inside. But on the other hand, West identifies complex layers to the conflict that go beyond the maternal. Sarah's grief has stunted her emotional growth, leaving her in a childlike state of dependence on her support structure. It's only when these have been stripped away by The Woman that Sarah transforms into an adult. And while The Woman's obsession with a child is at least partially maternal, it also represents the life she lost when (SPOILER ALERT) her own unborn child died in the same accident that killed Sarah's husband. She holds Sarah responsible, and her being the one to get the child at the end of the film is just as much about righting a wrong as it is in reclaiming her motherhood. (END SPOILER).
So while it may seem counter-intuitive, Inside is a movie that focuses on pregnancy but also manages to depict a woman's identity as something not inherently tied to motherhood. They are complete human beings with all of their flaws and scars on display. But then, I suppose anything less than that wouldn't be true to the New French Extremity.
Bryan's To-Watch List:
- Le Manoir du diable (The Haunted Castle)
- Le Voyage dans la Lune (A Trip to the Moon)
- Les Diabolique
- Les Yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face)
- Le Viol du vampire (Rape of the Vampire) or really anything from Jean Rollin
- Baise-Moi (Can be translated as either Rape Me or Fuck Me)
- Sombre (Dark)
- In My Skin
- Criminal Lovers
- Ils (Them)
- Suel Contre Tout (I Stand Alone)
- Ma Mere