Like cigarettes and alcohol, this French shocker should be kept well away from pregnant women

Thanks to the likes of Haute Tension (aka Switchblade Romance), Frontiere(s) and Martyrs, the past few years have seen a major resurgence in French horror cinema. Proving particularly adept at pushing the boundaries of taste, this new wave of French horror eschews the safe scares of its Americanised brethren in favour of more challenging fodder. And the latest of these films to make it to UK shores is the writer-director Alexandre Bustillo and co-director Julien Maury's visceral 2007 shocker A l'interieur (Inside).

Cat and mouse
Alysson Paradis (sister of singer-actress Vanessa) plays Sarah, a young wife left widowed when her husband dies in a car crash. Heavily pregnant at the time of the crash, the story then jumps to four months later, Christmas Eve, with her due to give birth the following day. Things take a disturbing turn when a stranger (played by legendary Betty Blue icon Beatrice Dalle) turns up on her doorstep that night, pleading to use the phone. When Sarah refuses to let her in, the mysterious visitor reveals that she knows about Sarah and her circumstances before appearing to disappear. Later that night, Sarah is awakened by the woman, who has now gained access to her home, and so begins a deadly game of cat and mouse within the claustrophobic confines of the house.

Clocking in at a taut 79mins, Inside is a deeply unsettling, but extremely effective piece of horror cinema. Performances are uniformly excellent across the board (the two female leads are simply exceptional and bring a frightening intensity to their roles) and the filmmakers do a superb job of milking every iota of tension out of the setup.

That said, Inside definitely isn't a film that trades solely in psychological horror - it's also incredibly violent and gory. Even a hardened horror fan like myself ended up turning away from the screen on a couple of occasions due to the violence being unleashed on screen. This isn't to take anything away from the film - Inside manages the great feat of perfectly balancing intelligent storytelling with nerve-shredding horror, much like the equally brilliant Martyrs. There's only one slightly duff note along the way, one I can't really mention without spoiling part of the film, but it feels like its walked in from a completely different movie.

Muted visuals
Bypassing Blu-ray on its way to these shores, Momentum Pictures has released the film as a bargain-priced DVD in the UK. Thankfully, this doesn't mean that the company has given the film a short shrift when it comes to the transfer. Presented anamorphically at the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the image is cleanly rendered, and copes surprisingly well with the film's extremely dark and muted visuals. Brighter lit sequences, such as the interior of the bathroom Sarah takes refuge in at one stage, look particularly good, containing plenty of fine detail and no obvious noise or other technical issues.

Sadly the story isn't quite as good when it comes to the DVD's audio. Momentum's disc offers up a solid Dolby Digital 2.0 that makes good use of the limited soundstage through panning effects and other directional cues. The French-language dialogue is picked out of the mix rather well (supported by clear English language subtitles), and the evocative score sounds satisfyingly rich. All of which is very pleasing. But a spot of research on the internet indicates the earlier Dimension Home Video US DVD release featured an extremely strong Dolby Digital 5.1 French mix, which is not present here.

In-depth extra
The disc only serves up a couple of special features, one of which is the trailer. The good news is that the other is a fantastic 52min Making of... documentary, offering a detailed look at the film's production through behind-the-scenes footage and refreshingly honest interviews. It gives you a real appreciation of the effort that went into making the movie and is as far removed from the kind of studio-approved EPK fodder found on most Hollywood releases as you could possibly hope for.

Momentum Pictures, Region 2 DVD, £13 approx, On sale now