For roughly the first third of 2018’s Inside, I felt sympathetic towards a remake whose original “equal” is highly regarded amongst genre crowds. Yet as plot similarities fade, freedoms from comparative shackles prove themselves to be rather trivial and unaffecting. From the director of Kidnapped (a thriller I dig) and the co-writer of [REC] (an outbreak nightmare I adore) comes a head-scratching tale of coincidental deaths on par with neither of their previously taught accolades. Points awarded for deviating from Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury’s brutalization so noticeably, but lordy, this is some serious “scream at the screen” kind of frustration at times.
Rachel Nichols stars as Sarah Clark, a pregnant widow trying to cope with a recent car accident that took her husband’s life. On this particular night during the Christmas holiday season, she goes to bed knowing her mother is en route and neighbors are keeping watch – but that doesn’t stop a crazed woman (Laura Harring) from breaking into her suburban abode. It becomes clear that the intruder wants to cut Sarah’s baby out for herself, but the mommy-to-be fights back. Lives are lost, doors are broken, and one savage battle for parental rights tints the holidays a dreary shade of red. Is nothing sacred?
Before you ask, yes – Miguel Ángel Vivas’ direction in no way compares to Bustillo and Maury’s punishing barrage of gushing wounds and battered bodies. Their Inside remains one of the most unflinching bouts of savagery ever recorded on film. To be fair, this is because Jaume Balagueró (along with co-writer Manu Díez) script something with more easy thrills and twists. We push through Sarah’s house and explore an entire neighborhood, almost as a showing of respect to source material that simply cannot be challenged.
That said, Vivas’ take on Inside suffers from a tremendously under-thought story that turns lawmen into bumbling oafs and an aging woman into some killer mastermind. “The Woman” should have been stopped twenty-times over, ESPECIALLY when she’s outed to Sarah’s mother and close friend who do nothing with such information. Here “The Woman” is, standing in Sarah’s doorway facing *two* people who can remove her from the house, but instead they dash by her into the home and allow enough time for Harring’s psychopath to arm herself. These kind of moments replay with disappointing frivolity, never to sequence enough culpable thrills before another mood-killing glimpse of look-away ignorance.
It’s true that Nichols is one of the more rough-and-tumble genre stars working today, but Inside needlessly restrains a grander performance that could have been. Her situational awareness is dictated by Sarah’s hearing aid (on or off) and even given the scenario, interactions with “The Woman” are never *that* heightened. Maybe because Harring’s intensity feels too stiff and rigid, whose most menacing moments are mere eye glances during a slow walk forward. Hate to bring it up, but there’s absolutely zero inspiration from Béatrice Dalle’s batshit beautiful portrayal of the same deviant – Harring’s just a black-dressed standee who’s timid and bland in comparison.
What ends up being borrowed from 2007’s unspeakable odyssey is a bit odd, because liberties are so far flung while other plot narratives stay rigid to existing form. Sarah spends plenty of time locked in a bathroom, her cop “saviors” arrive, poor mom drops in – but these moments feel forcibly rushed. Like Vivas is trying to push through familiarity to then break into an outside chase. Enter a police car tussle that ends with Sarah seeking refuge in an “under construction” house across the street (complete with an all-important pool), complete with more rapid explanations. It’s almost like a studio’s “remake” and a filmmaker’s “reimagining” are caught in one weird tangle, neither of which unravel in time to straighten scene-by-scene tension.
I respect Inside (2018) for blazing its own trail, but the flames left behind are extinguished before they ever rage uncontrollably. For how notably sadistic 2007’s Inside remains, Miguel Ángel Vivas somehow manages long stretches of noticeably dead air. Rachel Nichols and Laura Harring spend more time locked in standoffs while supporting characters are mere sacrifices with little reason. Even ignoring my distaste for this film’s finale (obvious rebirth metaphor), it’s shocking to feel such bottomed-out enthusiasm over a situation that pits two hopeful mothers in a competition for one’s unborn child. Just stick with Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury when it comes to movies titled Inside.
This year's Inside remake swaps Bustillo and Maury's brutalization levels for beyond-generic thrills that are more frustrating than fierce - whatever that's worth.