It Lives Inside

Horror movies often have an allegorical thread within them and, currently, it’s hard to spot a story in one of these spooky flicks that doesn’t also double for another, deeper meaning.  While the efforts are usually appreciated when filmmakers try to push themselves, sometimes their movies are simply too good at fulfilling the broader strokes.  Such is the case for Bishal Dutta’s It Lives Inside.

The film tells a satisfying story about an Indian-American teenager’s internal struggle with trying to distance themselves from their heritage and culture in order to survive high school, and gradually feeling a wave of guilt by doing so.  On the other hand, from a broader perspective, it’s a creepy and rightfully intimidating demon movie.  Using, assumably, inspiration from Jame Wan’s Insidious, It Lives Inside teases us with the design of the demon, a creature that beautifully blends practical effects with slight CGI.  Like Wan, Dutta walks a thin line between carefully concealing the monster and showing the audience too much – the trick is pulled off for the most part.

Dutta’s feature-length debut provided more worthwhile results for me asa simple scary movie than a cultural allegory but, for a viewer who can identify with our lead Samidha (Megan Suri of Netflix’s Never Have I Ever), they may have more of a connection to the screenplay (Dutta co-wrote with Ashish Mehta, a writer on Amazon Prime’s Hush Hush).  However for an outsider like myself, I graciously walked away knowing more about Hinduism and its folk lore than I did before the film started.  That certainly counts for something.

The other components supporting It Lives Inside are commendable, with the performances being the stand outs.  Suri shows an impressive range, embodying ice cold fear when her life is threatened but also successfully communicating suppressed regret when she tries to ignore a wayward friend’s troubles.   That friend, Tamira (Mohana Krishnan), is initially haunted by the demon.  Krishnan does a very good job with the quieter requirements of her meek and frightened role, making the audience care about her wellbeing when she’s an asset in the film’s plot-driven abduction.

Because of the narrative’s off-the-shelf qualities, It Lives Inside leaves unique company like Get Out or His House, but finds a snug spot in its genre as a reliable supernatural creature feature – think The Black Phone meets Come Play.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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