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Inside (2006)

Director: Jeff Mahler
Starring: Nicholas D'Agosto, Cheryl White, Kevin Kilner, Leighton Meester
Unrated Running time: 99 minutes
Released by Echo Bridge Home Entertainment

Full disclosure: I Netflix'ed this thinking I was getting the French horror flick. After reading the description I decided to watch it any way, being hell bent on getting my money's worth from the mail-order video giant. Unfortunately, this Inside falls into that category between entertaining and boring. Better educated people than I often describe this category as "mediocre".

Alex (Nicholas D'Agosto) is a troubled teenager who, when not working at his library job, gets his kicks by spying on people who catch his interest. He becomes obsessed with the Smith's, a morose couple who borrow the same book over and over again. Why do they always check out the same book? Why are they so sad when they are doing it? Alex is dying to know - and not even the attentions of an attractive kleptomaniac (Leighton Meester) will deter him from finding out. Unhealthy, it is. He goes to the Smith's house one night and watches the couple through their windows. He sees them arguing and decides to sneak in for a closer look. Alex isn't an especially stealthy intruder, so it comes as no surprise when he is caught. What is surprising, however, is the way the Smith's react to their unexpected visitor. The grieving couple think that Alex looks a lot like their deceased son - so much that they don't want Alex to leave.

Inside gets off to a fairly compelling start; two parties, with complementary illnesses, meet unexpectedly. It would seem to be a happy arrangement for all involved, until Alice Smith (Cheryl White) begins to get a little more crazy than Alex would like. As the emotionally damaged Alice begins to go off the rails, so does the film. Director Jeff Mahler fails to develop the films premise and settles on rehashing territory already covered by Misery. The lead actors follow a similar path: Nick D'Agosto conveys a Tobey Maguire-esque puppy dog charm in the early scenes, and ends up in over his head when the film takes on a more threatening tone; Cheryl White is believable in the film's first act, unintentionally funny when her character goes batshit crazy towards the end. All the while, melodramatic soundtrack music plays in nearly every scene, as if to remind the viewer that what he is seeing is supposed to be taken very, very seriously.

Is it terrible? No. But it looks, feels, and plays like a Lifetime TV movie. Not my cup of tea, but you may want to give it a spin if you are into that sort of thing. I promise I won't laugh.