One of the more fascinating, unorthodox and, unfortunately,
little-known animated features of recent years. Highly gruesome and
surreal in nature, it’s a film of limited appeal, obviously, but it
deserves the widest possible audience.
FROM INSIDE (2008) was adapted from the well received
1993 graphic novel of the
same name by John Bergin, who scripted, directed and animated
the film. It won prestigious awards at several film festivals but has
never received any kind of substantial release theatrically or on home
video--at least not outside a self-distributed (by John Bergin) DVR that
now appears to be out of print.
In a horrific apocalyptic universe a pregnant woman
named Cee finds herself stuck aboard a train. She suffers from unnerving
nightmares and witnesses quite a few horrors, including the remains of a
crashed train, a creepy guy wrapped mummy-like in bandages, and a vast
lake of blood sporting a litter of scattered bones, flesh and corpses.
The blood lake gradually recedes, but Cee’s nightmares
continue, while the more unpleasant effects of pregnancy--vomiting, back
aches, etc--make themselves felt. At one point the train is brought to a
most unexpected halt by a herd of buffalo on the tracks. The buffalo are
rounded up and two of the train’s cars converted into makeshift
slaughterhouses, with Cee charged with sharpening the killing knives and
hooks. She quits her job, however, after she witnesses a disemboweled
female buffalo disgorge a dead offspring.
Cee notices a passenger taking an interest in her who
resembles the creepy mummy-like figure she saw earlier. The figure
haunts her as the train makes its way to higher ground and a seemingly
impenetrable cave, where a cave-in halts the forward motion.
Cee is taken to the train’s so-called “maternity ward.”
A good thing, too, as the living conditions in the rest of the train
steadily degenerate, with emaciated bodies packed sardine-like on the
Before long the cave-in is cleared and the train once
again gets going. This coincides with Cee finally giving birth. The joy
Cee takes in her baby seems to offset the awfulness of her world; she
strikes up a relationship with the bandaged man, and all seems well.
But then tragedy strikes, in the form of train tracks
that abruptly end at the edge of a cliff…
From this film’s opening moments a powerful atmosphere
of brooding malignancy suffuses the proceedings. Dissolves are abundant,
as are highly deliberate camera moves and despairing narration by the
heroine (effectively voiced by Megan Gold). It’s in those early scenes
that the film’s oft-utilized signature image, of a train chugging
through a parched landscape, is established.
The animation is taken directly from the artwork of the
FROM INSIDE graphic novel, meaning there are a lot of still pictures in
place of conventional animation and/or slight movement amid static
backgrounds. This isn’t the first time such an approach has been used in
an animated feature (see
THE DREAM-QUEST OF UNKNOWN KADATH), but
it actually works quite well here given the subdued nature of the
proceedings. The technique also provides one of the film’s most striking
images: that of falling train cars frozen in midair. It’s a fact that
(as anyone familiar with the graphic novel can attest) the illustrations
are gorgeously wrought, with a suitably dark, grungy sheen that often
recalls the work of H.R. Giger.
Complaints? There aren’t too many. Like the graphic
novel (itself a minor classic of the form) the film imparts a flawlessly
evoked depiction of dark surrealism that merges personal apprehension
with apocalyptic horror. I can complain, I suppose, about certain
technical aspects, particularly the sound mixing--it’s often difficult
to hear the voice-over dialogue over the vastly over-modulated sound
effects--but this is superlative filmmaking in nearly every respect.
KC Grinder Productions
Director/Screenwriter/Editor: John Bergin
Producers: Brian McNelis, John Bergin
Cast: Megan Gold, John Bergin, Gregory Nemec, Chris Duh, Brett Smith,
Patrick Hopewell, James O’Barr