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It Lives Inside Main

It Lives Inside Movie Review

Written by Ren Zelen

Released by Distribution Solutions

it lives inside poster large

Directed by Bishal Dutta
Written by Bishal Dutta and Ashish Mehta
2023, 99 minutes, Rated
Released on November 7th, 2023

Megan Suri as Samidha
Neeru Bajwa as Poorna
Mohana Krishnan as Tamira
Betty Gabriel as Joyce


It Lives Inside, the feature directorial debut from Bishal Dutta, centres on Samidha (Megan Suri) or ‘Sam’ as she prefers to be called, a girl of Indian heritage trying hard to fit in at an American High School which appears to be predominantly white. Sam is exasperated by the fact that, although she is trying to be an ordinary American teenager, her classmates seem to find her interesting not because she’s clever and pretty, but mainly because she happens to be so unthreateningly exotic.

She is in conflict with her mother Poorna (Neeru Bajwa) because, feeling alienated and missing her homeland, Poorna is trying hard to cling on to familiar Hindu traditions as an integral part of their lives in America, whereas Sam just wants to integrate into the country where she was born. She doesn’t want to go by her Indian name, prefers not to speak Hindi and doesn’t bring any of her American teen friends to her home. This exemplifies the inevitable disconnection between first-generation children and their immigrant parents.

Sam’s desire to become part of the popular white-kid group at school has also caused her to abandon her Indian-American childhood friend Tamira (Mohana Krishnan). She still feels enough guilt about this not to join in too heartily when the high-school crowd disparage Tamira for her ‘creepy’ otherness.

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However, Sam doesn’t want to look too closely at the fact that something bad is happening to Tamira, apart from her being ostracized at school. Her erstwhile friend arrives late to classes, exhausted, disheveled, distraught, and occasionally appearing to talk to a dirty glass jar she carries with her at all times.

Tamira’s odd behaviour begins to worry a sympathetic teacher, Joyce (Betty Gabriel), who approaches Sam and asks her to talk with her friend - perhaps their ethnic connection might encourage Tamira to reveal her current troubles?

Sam somewhat ungraciously rebuffs Joyce’s suggestion, denying that she would have any advantage in empathizing with Tamira, hoping to avoid being associated with the Indian girl that her American friends find freakish and repellent.

Sam’s situation becomes socially awkward when Tamira approaches her directly while at school and asks for her help. Sam rejects Tamira’s story about a being tormented by a demonic monster that lives inside her mysterious jar and, becoming increasingly angered by Tamira’s desperate pleas, she slaps the jar out of her hands and to Tamira’s horror, the jar shatters on the floor. Sam stalks out while Tamira gazes at the broken pieces in terror.

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Sam’s guilt for ignoring Tamira’s pleas is further awakened when her friend mysteriously goes missing and she enlists the help of her willing high-school crush, Russ (Gage Marsh) in trying to find out what might have happened to her.

Sam is hopeful that Tamira is still alive and her search leads her and Russ to an abandoned house where another Indian-American teen committed suicide. While Tamira is lured into the house by a disembodied voice, her white boyfriend waits outside, but is viciously ‘attacked’ by an invisible entity.

The entity, now on the loose, begins to fix upon Sam. It’s a demonic spirit from Hindu folklore called a Pishach. It hides in the dark and feeds upon flesh. However, its ultimate goal is to consume the soul of its victim, first ‘tenderizing’ it through fear and isolation.

The demon haunts Sam, tormenting her and attacking those who try to help her, which prompts one of the scariest scenes in the film when the creature stalks teacher Joyce through corridors of the empty high school at night. To understand how to fight the demon Sam must look for answers in her own Indian heritage.

It Lives Inside is commendable in its originality in introducing a demon from another culture to jaded western audiences in a modern retelling, and director Dutta combines this with the underlying themes of teen angst, assimilation, and alienation. Children of immigrant parents will relate to Sam’s struggles with her family and her cultural identity while she's trying to fit into a very different culture and social circle. This figurative ‘demon’ that haunts the lives of first-generation kids features as a literal demon to serve as an allegory of that concept.

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The film begins with a tantalizing scene of the horrors that might be to come. It offers an interesting premise and creates an intriguing atmosphere, but too soon it falls into a more formulaic plot, losing some of its initial promise.

However, considering that Dutta was trying to tell the story of a flesh-eating demon while keeping within a PG-13 rating, he does manage to create an effectively menacing atmosphere with some genuinely shocking and scary moments. The film does add some freshness to the familiarity of a formula.

It Lives Inside had the potential to be a more intriguing horror movie if the plot had been better developed. There are too many half-explained concepts and interesting ideas that are skimmed over. The film can boast some stylish horror moments and decent acting but the telling of an Indian-American horror story set in white suburban America offers opportunities for so much more in the way of originality.


Movie: 2.5 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Ren Zelen
Staff Reviewer - UK
REN ZELEN is a writer, movie critic, reviewer, academic editor, pop-culture junkie and Sandra Bullock lookalike. Her post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel ‘THE HATHOR DIARIES’ is available on Amazon in the UK and USA and worldwide.
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