Wow is this ever an interesting film to review? 2015’s The Interior is a strange little Thriller movie with some serious Horror leanings. From everything I have read, it would appear that The Interior seems to really divide opinion among horror fans. Hell, my own opinion was really divided for at least half of the movie so I can understand why.
Primary genre aside, I think it’s fair to class The Interior as an Isolation Horror. With this in mind, I am including it as the third of our three Isolation themed horror movie reviews along with Survive the Hollow Shoals and Leaving D.C. My partner and I just so happened to watch these films together within a short period of time so it seemed only natural to review them together as well. Sure, they all approach the theme of isolation horror in a different manner but they all address similar themes of loneliness and fear of the unknown.
As I mentioned in previous Isolation Horror Movie reviews, I absolutely love the theme. There is little more haunting than being completely alone with only ones own fears and thoughts to keep you company. Minor fears are perpetuated and even the slightest noise can seem like impending doom. The viewer should feel as though they are alone with the protagonist; you almost share in their terror. When done right, Isolation Horror can be absolutely fantastic. With that being said, let’s get into our review of The Interior.
The Interior follows the day to day life of James. James is a pretty run of the mill kind of guy. Seemingly a hero in his own mind; James tires of his mundane office job and regards the majority of people around him with some degree of contempt.
Within the first ten minutes of the movie, James is visualising shedding the shackles of his job in a most profound manner, perhaps so he can focus on his rap career? Yes, James is indeed the most rebellious of Canadian rebels. An amusing, and very deliberate, chuckle at itself. There is an acute sense of self awareness present throughout The Interior, be it self deprecating or otherwise. We are all a bit lame when not viewed through the lens of our own vanity, The Interior gets this. James does eventually quit his job albeit in a rather passive, and far less heroic, manner.
It soon becomes apparent that James is suffering from some sort of illness. We are never really told what he is suffering from but this is, once again, quite deliberate. The Interior places the viewer as a limited voyeur of James’ life. There is minimal exposition and this works perfectly in unison with James’ passive nature. Would James tell us if we asked him? I doubt it, he would probably tell us it was nothing and we would go on not knowing. All we can gather is that this is most likely a physical issue, potentially a brain tumour?
As it becomes clear that the only way he can escape the rat race is to walk away from everything that he is attached to, James informs his girlfriend that he is leaving. He intends to spend time in nature. Despite her request, he gives little reason why offering the only explanation as he “Wants the opposite of this”.. Just like that, James is on a plane and wandering off into the wilds of British Columbia leaving his old life behind.
It can be hard to class The Interior and it certainly can’t be pigeon holed into one genre. This is made all the more difficult by the first 25 minutes. The first 25 minutes of The Interior are pretty make or break, to be honest. I imagine the majority of people are most likely to turn off a movie within the first half an hour or so. This is perhaps The Interior’s greatest failing. The first 25 minutes serve as a highly stylised introduction to the main character and are somewhat self serving. As a portfolio, as a demonstration of vision and ideas, it is great; as the opening of a movie, not so much.
The horror element really doesn’t kick in until the second half; the first half is almost a comedy drama. The comedy is very hit or miss and James comes across as the type of guy you would go out of your way to avoid. If you don’t chuckle at the Marmite humour and are not particularly taken by the almost vaudeville-esque presentation you may wonder why you haven’t hit the stop button. Indeed, the thought of spending another 55 minutes alone in the woods with James might be enough to put you off entirely. This would be a disservice to the film, however, and I would recommend you at least keep viewing.
The Interior is a very slow burning movie. Nothing happens quickly and if you are looking for instant gratification, you may want to skip this completely. Once the horror and suspense element takes over, however, the movie picks up a lot. When we finally get into the woods we spend another 25 minutes or so learning that James is equally as incapable of coping in the wild as he was in everyday life. This will soon be compounded by the fact that James is, apparently, not alone. After experiencing odd events over the course of a few nights, he is beginning to feel uneasy. Naturally, if you have stuck with the film so far, you are probably feeling pretty uneasy as well. Finally, The Interior is starting to look like a horror movie.
Deep into the second half, in the middle of the woods, all of a sudden, it happens. I won’t say what, but it is one of the most effective horror moments I have encountered in a long time. True, spine tingling horror that makes you feel genuinely uncomfortable. As I have said, The Interior is a slow moving film so it is fairly understandable that my fiancee was drifting off besides me when she was woken by said horror moment. She didn’t fall asleep again for the rest of the movie. Her reaction said it all and contained a lot of expletives that I won’t share. It is the type of scare that makes you wonder why you don’t see it more often. Fantastic and worth the price of admission alone. The movie doesn’t relent from that point on and it’s a pretty intense march to the conclusion. Is it a satisfying conclusion? Well, it’s a conclusion. Just know that to get there you are going to be spending the rest of the movie tensed up in horror.
This is what makes The Interior difficult to review. When The Interior is a horror movie it is fantastic. On the other hand, when The Interior is a comedy based character study of a guy that isn’t remotely likable, or even interesting, it falls pretty flat. The time we spend with James where little is happening is, frankly, quite dull. It actually reminds me a little of Napoleon Dynamite with its kooky sense of humour and propensity towards awkward character interactions. The difference being a complete lack of anyone to root for and none of the hilarity. A much better example of this type of build up is “They Look Like People”. Likable characters who you care about and relate to in some way getting you invested in the scarier elements of the plot.
When The Interior is an obvious horror movie, it really does shine. Sure, some people may not enjoy the slow pace and the minimal narrative but the scares are extremely well placed and they stay with you. There is enough narrative to drive along the plot and there are plenty of questions left that are sure to please those of us who enjoy chatting about an ending or character motives. Everything makes some degree of sense and James has a somewhat understandable reason for being in the woods. I also really like the fact that James’ illness is physical rather than mental as it opens up a whole new way of interpreting the story. Especially when you consider how certain physical conditions can change your perception of reality.
As for other elements of the film, everything is pretty decent. Acting is fine, cinematography is good with some excellent location shots and the music, though likely to divide opinion at time, is generally well placed and fitting. James is ably played by Patrick McFadden who, I am sure deliberately, captures the somewhat unlikable nature of the lead character. Obviously he has a lot to do in what is essentially a one man show and he does it well. The wilds of British Columbia are the real star of the show here, however, and they steal plenty of scenes.
Aside from an often bizarre and potentially divisive first half, The Interior transforms into an excellent horror movie. Some awkward, hit or miss, comedy and a protracted peek into the life of a dull man gives way to something much greater. There is a terrifying horror movie hiding behind those layers of drama. A fantastically isolated location combines with an inadequate, incapable, protagonist that is at the mercy of the world around him. All of this leads up to some of the best horror moments I have seen in years.
I am sure there are plenty of people out there who will disagree with me regarding the horror factor and that's fine. What works for some people does nothing for others. I will say that I am a horror veteran, it's pretty much the only genre I actually watch, and I have a very thick skin for scares. The Interior really got me good and left me feeling honestly uneasy for the last quarter. With that being said, isn't that what counts? Let's be honest, as horror fans we are just collecting scares. If a movie has a noteworthy scene then it is worth checking out, in my opinion. The Interior left me genuinely unsettled and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. Sure, it is not for everyone, but if you think it is for you then I strongly suggest you check it out.