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Ulises [Celluloid 11.27.08] post apocalyptic animation comic

Year: 2008
Release date: Unknown
Directors: John Bergin
Writers: John Bergin
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Ulises
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

The Bottom Line: A haunting, provocative, and amazing, if unrelentingly bleak, animated movie about one woman's surreal trek across a barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland.

When you look at the credits for John Bergin's From Inside, their brevity might surprise you. Aside from Bergin (as writer, producer, director, and animator), and Corryn Cummins (the actress who does the film’s voiceover), there aren’t many other people mentioned. That’s because From Inside is a 70-minute long movie comprised entirely of simple CGI and still-life illustrations with a bare minimum of animation. It looks like the kind of film that only required a handful of people to put together. And while this might sound like a knock against the film’s production values, it’s not. Because From Inside manages to tell an engrossing, surreal, and provocative tale of post-apocalypse survival through these simple, powerful images and Ms. Cummins intimate, haunting voiceovers.

From Inside is, in its simplest terms, a story about a dreamlike train ride across a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It follows the experiences and observations of one of the train's passengers, a young woman named Cee. Like her fellow passengers (none of whom speak or have names), she is emotionally adrift; she doesn't even remember how she got on the train, or where it's going. She doesn't even remember how the wasteland outside her window came to be.

And what a wasteland. From the film’s opening sepia-like CG shots, we realize this is a world that's been flattened and wiped out by something. The single row of train tracks, and the train itself chugging across them, are the only signs of life or movement across a barren space that seems infinite. It's a powerful image of complete desolation that's made all the more potent by Cee’s melancholic observations. “When the end of the world has come,” she laments, it's too late to wonder why.

It's a dreary, depressing world that strays into the macabre, the dreamlike, and the fantastic. In one scene, for example, Cee goes into the train’s boiler room and finds it piled with human bodies. She sees the inhuman engineers impale a still-living infant with a pitchfork, and throw its squirming body into the fires. It's only a dream, she realizes. But soon after that, it starts to rain blood—literally. And that's not a dream. Nor is it a dream as the train wades past oceans of blood swimming with debris and rotting, grotesque bodies.

Cee's journey across this bloody landscape is complicated by one piece of harsh reality: she's pregnant. An obscenity in this world,” she admits of her pregnancy. And like Kee from Children of Men, Cee's pregnancy elevates her to a level of importance. She's given her own cabin and bathroom on the train, and when there's work that needs to be done (including a surreal buffalo hunt and slaughter that lasts for weeks), she's given the easiest tasks. But Cee isn’t the happy, proud, expectant mother. Casual thoughts of suicide filter through her narrative, as she imagines how easy it would be to fall off the top of a refinery or walk into a bonfire.

The dreamlike, surreal journey across the barren landscape becomes symbolic of Cee's own journey of motherly self-discovery. Cognizant that she’s bringing a life into the hell around her, she struggles to accept this reality. And as the world turns grimmer and more surreal around her—especially after a months-long entrapment in a cave—Cee is haunted by nightmarish images of butchered babies, grotesque nurses and doctors, mangled bodies piled in the rear cars of the train, and images of herself as a maggot-filled rag doll. The still images and animation used for Cee's descent into delirium are chilling, to say the absolute least. They are images ripped from multiple nightmares, and stitched together by her anxiety and the unrelenting darkness of the world around her.

The eventual birth of Cee's baby gives her clarity of mind, and the answers to her many questions. When she hears her child's first cries, Cee finally remembers everything, including the world cataclysm that led to this, her infinite train ride across a dead world. The birth of Cee's baby also gives birth to hope. But then, what is hope in a world that’s barren and flooded in blood? And how long can it possibly last? It's a gut-wrenching ending that leaves some things to the interpretation, and others to grim, unforgiving fact.

From Inside is slow-paced and dreary, carried through by Cee's somber, distant voiceover, and a soundtrack that's as barren as the sepia illustrations piecing the story together. It’s a quiet, introspective examination of motherhood within the context of post-apocalyptic survival, and the pacing and tone echoes Cee's own lost hopelessness. Which is to say, if you're looking for thrills and chills, this isn't the movie for you.

But thrills and chills isn't what From Inside goes for. It's an ambiance, character-driven piece all the way, presenting a nightmarish, barren landscape through the narrow perspective of its listless heroine. And it does so magnificently. Just in terms of the mood and tone, From Inside's post-apocalyptic depiction should please any PA fan. Because it doesn't just show us the dead, devastated landscapes us PA fans are fascinated by; the film impregnates these landscapes with a genuine sense of nightmarish horror. The film's grisly images of death, infanticide, and mass slaughter paint a world that’s well beyond ‘hell on earth,’ haunting us with the possibility that Cee’s world really is one that’s trapped between life and death, dream and nightmare.

But it’s more than just the visual exploration of the dead world that makes From Inside so effective. It’s the emotional exploration as well. Cee isn’t your classic PA heroine scrounging for supplies as she’s riding across the barren dunes in a tricked-out motorcycle. She’s a storyteller. She’s a normal woman, a lonely woman, a poet at heart who just happens to be trapped in a world where normalcy and poetry have no place. But that doesn’t stop her from trying to understand this new world through poetical introspections and memories. She is anchored to her past life and her loss—including the father of her child—and so can’t help but to examine the loss around her through her own pain. In many ways, Cee is the most complex PA heroine I’ve seen, because she is both victim and observant participant, helpless bystander and reluctant historian.

As good as From Inside is, I can only imagine what it’d be like as a feature film. I think that, if John Bergin were to shoot this as a live-action film, while preserving the tone, pace, visual style, and nuance of this still-image masterpiece, From Inside would become one of the great PA films of all time, and one to be emulated by fans for years to come. As it stands, though, From Inside succeeds where I Am Legend, The Happening, and The Day After Tomorrow have failed; it tells a compelling, engaging story without a bloated special effects budget dictating its pace. And as such, From Inside is a must-see for any fan of the PA genre.

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projectcyclops (14 years ago) Reply

Excellent review. Want to see this now.


joe (14 years ago) Reply

Corryn Cummins, the voice of Cee, is kind of extraordinary too. Really bring this complex character to life.


Michael Bartlett (14 years ago) Reply

This film looks f* amazing! After months of starvation, finally a film to get excited about...


Anonymous (14 years ago) Reply

From Inside is coming to the Kansas City Film Festival April 22 - 26.

Schedule isn't posted yet but festival info can be found at the link below.


Alucard (10 years ago) Reply

You can watch it here:

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