After receiving some devastating news, James decides to leave his city life and head out into the woods in order to rediscover himself and come to terms with what’s occurring. At first, James is able to find peace and tranquility living out in the wilderness. However, there seems to be someone following him. Someone terrorizing him whenever night falls.
While there was no shortage of amazing movies playing the Fantasia International Film Festival this year, “The Interior” was something that really caught my attention. Perhaps because over the years, films, both big and small, seem to be getting bigger and louder both in production and in scope. Where as “The Interior” appeared to be a movie that was stripped-down to the bare necessities — a close, personal story about a man in the woods.
James is like most other people — works a job he doesn’t like, hates his boss, spends his time fantasizing, and is in a relationship for the sake of not being alone. That is until he visits his doctor with concerns of vision and mental impairment, which results in James receiving some news that causes him to suddenly become disconnected from his own existence. With this bit of news, James decides to abandon his old life and retreat to the wilderness in order to rediscover himself. At first, camping out in the woods with only the essentials appears to be going well for James. Minus having to sneak into the occasional cabin to grab a warm shower. Then strange things begin occurring and James believes he’s being stalked by someone in the woods. With each passing night, James is terrorized by this person with every encounter becoming more frightening than the last. James’s retreat slowly becomes a fight for survival.
Certainly minimalist films are nothing new and every year there are at least a handful that are produced (thankfully so). But with so many tent-pole action movies, cinematic universes, and high concept independent films, it is genuinely enjoyable and refreshing to find a movie that keeps things small and personal. “The Interior” is a single character and single concept movie that managed to be one of the most effective and unsettling movies I have seen this year. It’s shocking to reflect on what director, Trevor Juras, was able to accomplish with so little by putting together such a tightly focused production.
In the beginning, Trevor throws the audience off with his film by having the opening come across as a quirky character comedy piece in an “Office Space” like environment where a young man becomes disconnected from his own existence based on some earth shattering news he receives about his health. Our lead — and practically only character — James (Patrick McFadden) heads to the woods to rediscover himself and that’s when “The Interior” shifts tones and starts to become the movie you expect it to be.
The film becomes reflective of its character and becomes a slow and agonizing descent into madness. And strangely, the film never tries to pull a twist ending or sets up a false sense of reality — the audience understands what’s happening to the character. Yet, somehow, Trevor created a movie that still causes you to question what is real, no matter how certain you are. It’s why the film is effective and engaging; not only is the movie reflective of James mental state but the audience find themselves falling down the same rabbit hole. You know what’s happening, yet there’s that question that starts gnawing at the back of your brain brought on from James’s paranoia — are we certain there’s nothing in those woods?
The film ratchets the suspense and tension almost entirely through atmosphere. Every element in the film becomes a monster — the isolation, the sounds, the woods, and especially the darkness. Some of the most intense scenes are brought on when the sun sets, leaving both the character and the audience in an empty void of darkness. There’s no reliance on jump scares or an interest in merely startling the audience within “The Interior”. The horror comes from the unknown — not knowing what’s really happening, not knowing what’s hiding in the darkness.
It’s the simplest things that makes “The Interior” effective and terrifying. As I said, it’s a film with a single concept (and I don’t mean that in a negative way) — the movie is ultimately about the onset of madness and all the fears and horror that comes with it. The movie isn't muddled with sub-plots or forced characterizations. Instead it is only focused on developing a story that captures the feeling of descending into insanity, and through that, the film is able to pull you in by getting under your skin and into your head. And there’s definitely more to the film than what I'm letting on (i.e. symbolism) but it’s that core concept that makes the movie a success.