Fi (Sarah Lassez) is a struggling horror novelist, stuck on her current tale of a zombie couple trying to get at a woman who has locked herself in a room. Fi’s boyfriend, Wes (Dustin Fasching), is stuck working as a wedding photographer, equally creatively blocked. The two love each other, if not necessarily their current creative situations, so all seems well.
That is, until Fi starts exhibiting odd symptoms, such as late-night moaning, and begins complaining of something foreign inside her. When her issues advance to a stage where she starts self-mutilating and then attacks Wes, Wes has little choice but to get Fi professional help. He has her committed for a short time, but that doesn’t seem to help matters. As soon as she returns home, the symptoms pick up again and the truth is revealed: Fi is battling for possession of her body with a ghost named Emily, and losing. Wes doesn’t know what to do, so he imprisons Fi/Emily in the apartment until he can work out how to save Fi. And oh, did I mention this is a musical?
The Dead Inside is stylistically triumphant. The film delivers a visual and aural experience that is enchanting, all while keeping the characters and story rather simple. It’s hard to believe that the film takes place mostly between two people in one location; if you told me that this originated as an off-Broadway musical play, I’d probably believe you.
Visually, I was a fan across the board of the composition, color palette and even the way the film depicted the ghostly “dark shadow” effect. The film also doesn’t shy away from some occasional gore, somehow keeping some tastefulness to its shock value. If nothing else, the film is great to look at.
Of course, with the musical elements thrown in, the film is also a treat to listen to. With lyrics praising the benefits of a zombie apocalypse or the profanity-laden ode to a shitty, repetitious life, the musical numbers were definitely more my speed than, say, something like Les Misérables. One particularly emotional number, as Fi and Emily battle for control of Fi’s body, really got to me; the music adds an energy to the film that seems to elevate otherwise harsh content.
I think the film’s biggest potential issue is the tonal shifts; the film achieves, and attempts, so many different tones and moods to the proceedings that it can sometimes result in an overall sense of muddle. One minute it’s a jokey comedy, the next spooky horror, then domestic drama, tragedy and throughout musical. It’s not too bad if you go with it, but I can see how it could be disruptive, particularly near the middle where the carefree nature of the film is replaced with something darker, and the film’s energy begins to sag from lack of comedy and music; there’s a momentum loss there.
Overall, though, The Dead Inside is a unique film, a horro-dram-edy musical experience that is hard to forget.
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