'It Lives Inside' review: Generic horror flick has some teeth
Courtesy of Neon
Taking a page from the demonic playbook with a social commentary regarding Indian heritage and, to a lesser extent, immigration, “It Lives Inside” combines old and new techniques in an otherwise generic horror movie that’s perfectly harmless, but not very nourishing. First time writer-director Bishal Dutta has a flair for the theatrics and demonstrates, by using dark corridors and practical effects, he should have a bright future behind the camera. But his ability to add freshness to a worn-out genre proves rather mundane as characters aren’t developed beyond their personality and the monster at the center of the madness feels borrowed from countless other movies. There is one sequence that’s legitimately scary if only because it evokes memories of better, scarier, films.
Instead, “It Lives Inside” works better as a dissection on the Indian American experience through the lens of a boogeyman latching itself onto a depressed soul rather than a schlocky B-movie. When it stays calm and collected, Dutta manages to get his point across, but the predictable and infective jump scares undermine most of that established goodwill.
Megan Suri plays Samidha (or Sam as she prefers it), an Indian American teenager desperately trying to fit in at a school where not many peers look like her. Her desire to blend in with the predominantly Caucasian population has already hindered her relationship with Tamira, a longtime bestie, and the only other Indian American girl in her class.
That is until Tamira begins acting strange and distant, walking around claiming something is following her. When she goes missing, Sam goes full detective mode and uncovers an old folklore about a spirit called Pishach, which is a demonic entity that’s prevalent in Hindu mythology. Like most of these creatures who have appeared in countless horror films, it feeds on fear, and slowly eats away at your sanity until nothing is left.
Dutta is wise to keep the Pishach at arms-length for most of the movie and allow our imaginations to conjure up what this creature might look like. Less is always more, and the sound design is a crucial component during the sequences where the monster is either invisible or hidden in the dark. Of course, as more elements unravel, the less interesting this creation becomes. Adhering to a PG13 rating doesn’t do “It Lives Inside” any favors either as most of the carnage is bloodless and shown off camera. If anything, this movie acts as the perfect sizzle reel for what Dutta could do with a better script and a decent budget. I’m sure the folks over at Blumhouse would love to have him.
IT LIVES INSIDE opens in theaters Friday, September 22nd