A brand new horror classic comes in the form of writer/director Bishal Dutta’s It Lives Inside. The horror creature feature takes all of the stereotypical tropes from this genre from the 90s and injects it with some Indian culture and folklore that help this stand out from the noisy horror landscape. This is helped by some incredible performances from Megan Suri as the main protagonist Samidha, and her supportive family and teachers help this stand out from the rest. Using practical effects for the monsters helps this to feel authentic and allows the scares to rip right through you.
Set in small-town America, Samidha (Megan Suri) an Indian American teenager who is starting to find her way in middle school, trying to catch the eye of Russ (Gage Marsh) while separating herself from her awkward Indian friend Tamira (Mohana Krishnan) who carries a dirty looking jar around everywhere with her. When Tamira’s odd behaviour is flagged by a teacher Joyce (Betty Gabriel) Samidha investigates further. Tamira claims the jar holds an ancient demon from her parent’s folk stories from their childhood. When the inevitable happens and the demon in the glass jar Pishach, a devourer of souls, is loose, it is up to Samidha and her family to capture it again and set the world right.
Director Dutta showcases his extensive knowledge of horror and how to build up tension and deliver a scare to lift the audience out of their seat. Keeping the demon invisible for three-quarters of the movie was a smart move. The invisible attacks use other sources for props like mirrors, shower steam and a swing set that will stand out as the most effective of the film. The evil eyes of the creature peering from a wardrobe as the lights flick on and off is definitely something we have seen before, but it still manages to garner a decent fright.
Suri commands the screen as Samidha, allowing for her awkwardness being a teenager just trying to fit into a white American school, her struggle with her childhood friend Tamira and trying to please her family’s wishes to retain her Indian heritage and language at home is not an easy ask. Suri pulls it off effortlessly, allowing for the character of Samidha to feel fully fleshed out and relatable. Her complicated relationship with her mother Poorna (Neeru Bajwa) is perfectly written and delivered by both actresses.
It Lives Inside brings to the forefront an immigrant story with a twist, rather than focusing on trauma, the demon Pishach feeds off loneliness and depression while alienating its victims from their loved ones. This is no easy subject matter that is easily guided by writer/director Bishal Dutta who delivers a carefully crafted tale of immigrant assimilation while using the demon to accentuate this. While it may not be for everyone, the crowded world of horror films in 2023 is full of sequels and requels that aren’t offering anything new to the landscape. Fortunately, It Lives Inside forges its own path forward, carving out a new space in the over-saturated landscape delivering a brand new classic horror film that will stay with you long after you have left the cinema.
It Lives Inside is currently playing at the Melbourne International Film Fesitval.
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