It Lives Inside
September 13th, 2023
MOVIE: IT LIVES INSIDE
STARRING: MEGAN SURI, NEERU BAJWA, BETTY GABRIEL, MOHANA KRISHNAN
DIRECTED BY: BISHAL DUTTA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
Demons in horror movies have been as standard as it gets. From The Exorcist to The Conjuring, a most recent favorite of mine is The Offering, all of them have been movies that get a possession story right. When done correctly, it’s terrifying, something that can’t be proven, surviving in the space between good and evil. It Lives Inside has the visual sense to be scary, with the standard story of a high school girl messing around with something she shouldn’t be, but director Bishal Dutta forgets that it’s been done countless times before…and better. It Lives Inside follows an Indian-American girl, going through coming-of-age struggles, but finding herself wrapped up when an evil spirit is released. The potential is there but what seems promising is better off kept inside.
Samidha (Megan Suri) is a high-school sophomore, dealing with the growing pains of teenage life and desperately wants to break from her overbearing parents. With her struggles with her own cultural identity, Samidha has a falling out with her friend Tamira (Mohana Krishnan), who has been showing up to school late, looking tired, and often holding a mason jar that is coated in black. Tamira holds the jar ever so tight, but something is torturing her, a voice from beyond, and it grows stronger. When Sam knocks the jar out of Tamira’s hands, something is unleashed, an entity attaching itself to her and making her life a living nightmare.
From a horror movie standpoint, Dutta has a grasp for building the tension and then revealing enough horror without using gimmicks. The screenplay, written by Dutta and Ashish Mehta, has a genuine care for bringing Indian folklore to American horror. It’s not the gimmicks or the story itself that is wrong. It’s the stale nature of where the story goes, with an entity stalking our character, and great lengths needed to contain it. There is a beat-up scary book, along with haunted and cryptic images, either written by Tamira or the demon itself. When the entity attacks Samidha’s love interest Russ (Gage Marsh), it leaves her to look like the perpetrator, and now she looks like the crazy one believing in ghosts.
The reality is that many other films have done this before with other ethnicities, other religious backgrounds, and other interpretations of demons attached to a host. One of my biggest gripes from the direction of Dutta is a lack of confidence to show us the attacks. The cinematography by Matthew Lynn is shrouded in darkness and not in a cool way. Most of It Lives Inside is set in dark attics or with the lights turned off, making it impossible to see anything going on, and leaving you unafraid. I must once again beg horror directors to take hints from films such as It Follows or Smile, where seeing the scary stuff guarantees a good shock for the audience.
It Lives Inside ultimately fails to separate itself from the pack of horror movies we’ve seen recently. Cobweb, Talk to Me, Evil Dead Rise, the recent Hellraiser, and even The Pope’s Exorcist offered more scares, more blood, and more everything. Sadly, It Lives Inside is not a horror movie I recommend releasing onto your screen anytime soon.
IT LIVES INSIDE ARRIVES IN THEATERS THIS FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 22ND, 2023.
Written by: Leo Brady