Talking about horror remakes is a very touchy subject, so let’s just start out knowing that I always embrace a remake and look forward to seeing a new interpretation of a film. There is such a thing as a good remake and to always turn your nose up to them puts you at risk of missing out on something truly great. Granted, for every John Carpenter’s The Thing, there are a minimum of 7 misguided attempts at a remake, but that shall never weaken this horror fan’s optimism.
On it’s own, Inside is a stylish home invasion film that tries new things, but also falters with finding it’s tone. Directed by Miguel Ángel Vivas (Kidnapped), it’s a beautiful display of his ability to utilize light, and lack thereof, to effectively envelop an otherwise run of the mill suburban home in dread and evil. At times, the movie even has a Hitchcockian aesthetic without feeling as though it’s trying too hard. With his multiple closeups on hands and a couple of very cleverly utilized flashes of light, there is no question as to whether or not Vivas has delivered a gorgeous film: he has. But when the storyline opens up to outside of the house, the loss of claustrophobia also causes some of the suspense to seep out.
Indeed, the mere fact that Vivas was directing this remake, with a script from Jaume Balagueró (REC, REC 2), seemed to speak of a willingness to deliver the same kind of brutality and energy that we experienced with the original film, but sadly, this is not the case. The opening car accident may be the one place where the updated version delivers more, but everything after that is a bit milquetoast compared to the original. And let’s be real: if you’ve seen the original, you’re going to be comparing the two throughout the entire viewing experience. So, let’s break it down.
American Sarah is not as apathetic about her impending birth. There is a throwaway moment when she makes a passing remark about possibly putting the baby up for adoption, but she is leaps and bounds happier than her French counterpart. French Sarah seemed to almost resent her unborn baby and watching her maternal instinct kick in is a lot of what makes the original film so visceral. There is a marked decline in the amount of blood and gore in this new version, but we are also given a Woman who is quite a bit more friendly, for lack of a better word. American Woman almost always has a kind smile on her face and she talks. A lot. In fact, these two women engage in an excessive amount of communication. Going back to the original, La Femme is a force of nature who is going to use a pair of giant shears to get what she wants. She arrives, fucks shit up and Sarah rises to the occasion. It’s a gritty battle of two women with a couple of unnecessary side plots thrown in to raise the body count. In no way is the original film a masterpiece or without it’s faults, but there are many reasons why it is held so dear to the horror community heart.
Ultimately, it was fair game for a remake and Vivas and Balagueró updated and put their own personal touches on it in some fun, and some not so fun, ways. Both films ask the viewer to forgive some truly bad acting from the numerous people who end up victims of The Woman and both films ask the viewer to put themselves in the uncomfortable headspace of acknowledging the fact that fetal abduction exists. In fact, the remake begins the film with some cold, unsettling statistics. Is this why the twist is in no way a shocker? Perhaps. Or maybe it wasn’t surprising because The Woman talks so damn much.
I should stop myself here and say that despite the previous statements, Rachel Nichols (P2) and Laura Harring (Mulholland Drive) both deliver good performances that are elevated when it’s just the two of them. Nichols does some pretty good acting when Sara is experiencing contractions and Harring is, basically, The Terminator with amazing cheekbones and a killer wardrobe. This is also what works against the story. The Woman is incredibly resilient with every unforeseen obstacle put in her path and Sarah should teach Lamaze classes because the amount of things she’s able to do while in labor are simply astounding. The original film felt real because both women suffered and succumbed to various injuries. Neither of them was superhuman and neither of them was 100% sympathetic. They were both flawed women thrown together by the cruel hands of fate. In the remake, however, American Sarah is painted as an angelic creature who had an accident, while The Woman is a wackadoo whom they will later try to get you to empathize with. There’s just too much: too much positivity, too much talking, too many extra characters, too much incongruous music and…wait for it… a happy ending. Welcome to America; we like it big, bright and happy and we will ruin your story to appease our gluttonous appetites.
Taken as it’s own entity, Inside delivers suspense, awesome visuals, solid lead performances and some WTF moments, but it’s not reinventing the home invasion mold. As a remake, it tweaked the story in some really cool ways, but didn’t take the kind of creative chances that would make even the most finicky of remake snobs take notice.
Lisa Fremont | Twitter: @lcfremont