Writer/director Paul Catalanotto (Horror Nights, Sacrilege) begins his latest film, The Thing Inside Us, on a familiar note. Shelly (Christine Tonry, 2 Bedroom 1 Bath) sleepwalking and her husband Daniel (Chad Graham) documenting it on video. What makes this a bit more complicated is the fact she ends up outside, staring at the sky. And that’s a good way to catch the Livingston Virus, which is spread by mosquitoes and turning into a pandemic.
Daniel nearly died from it, but apart from the sleepwalking Shelly seems unaffected and Dr. Lopez (Ruben Juarbe) says it’s anxiety and there’s nothing he can do. Their landlord Mr. Cole (Escalante Lundy, Don’t Look Back, Django Unchained) is hostile about it, thinking it devalues his property. So far, apart from the pandemic angle, The Thing Inside Us sounds like a demonic possession film, and you might expect mention of a Ouija board. Especially after Shelly puts a knife to her husband’s throat and threatening him in a deep, distorted voice.
Catalanotto has an interesting idea going on, not a unique one, but one I haven’t seen in a while. He also does a good job of misdirecting the audience for much of the film’s first hour. It’s only after Shelly disappears for a couple of days before reappearing back to her old self as though none of the first act happened that the cause begins to look like something other than the supernatural.
It’s also to Catalanotto’s credit that he does all this with just the two leads and a couple of supporting characters who have very little screen time. According to The Thing Inside Us’ Facebook page, it was filmed on the fly and without a budget and he really gets a lot out of one location, two good performances from the leads and some effective camerawork.
So where did the idea to make this film come from? It came from the first semester teaching at LSU. I’ve always been a big believer in that nothing should stop you from making your movie. Budget. Crew. Talent. Time. Nothing. My students were quick to point out that when I did Proof of the Devil and Sacrilege I had a budget. And that’s true, I talked the big game, but never attempted it. So I started writing to prove that it could be done.Paul Catalanotto
Granted, The Thing Inside Us does use some of the typical low budget tricks to fill out its running time. A scene where Daniel follows Shelly through the woods at night goes on too long and gives us way to many views of the local plant life. And we spend a bit more time than is needed reading e-mails along with Daniel. But their use is kept to a minimum, unlike some microbudget films, Apex Predators I’m looking at you, which seem to consist of fifty percent stock footage.
Finally, in the last half hour, The Thing Inside Us lets us know what’s really going on, and it pulls it off fairly well, give or take a few moments that feel rushed and one really bad performance. It might have worked better if the script had introduced these elements a bit sooner, especially since the film’s poster ruins the surprise.
While it has its issues and can’t compete with a lot of bigger budgeted fare, The Thing Inside Us is still much better than most films in its own budgetary class. And the on screen comments during the end credits are an added bonus. One in particular had me laughing out loud, you’ll know which one when you see it.
The Thing Inside Us is available on Digital and VOD from High Octane Pictures.