It Lives Inside

It Lives Inside
It Lives Inside
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SXSW’s Midnight Audience Award winner It Lives Inside, comes out on wide release September 22, aiming to distinguish itself from the cluster of horrors that pop up in autumn. In his debut flick as a director, Bishal Dutta delves deep into Hindu mythology with a thriller that sees an Indian American teenage girl come face to face with malevolence while also having to re-visit her cultural heritage in India.

Anybody would need therapy after that! If protagonist Samidha / Sam (Megan Suri of Missing and Poker Face) manages to survive it is great fun if not bone-chilling to watch. The standout feature about It Lives Inside is its diverse characters and a culture that general audiences do not really get exposed to. By this virtue, It Lives Inside is worth seeing because of its refreshingly unique pace and tone, its presentation of evil force that’s just plain eerie. Does it fall victim to the usual horror movie clichés? Yeah. A bit. But lotsa fun here though! Ready or not.

It Lives Inside was brought by the same people who produced Get Out: Sean McKittrick and Raymond Mansfield. There’s also a nice little trilogy in motion here too with Bishal Dutta (Triads), Ashish Mehta (Hush Hush TV series), and Megan Suri. (Dutta is his co-writer too.) However it is Suri who steals the show actually making It Lives Inside sometimes downright enthralling.

No time wasted; the story gets straight down to business. Twenty minutes into the movie, Dutta takes viewers on an interesting horror ride filled with suspense and mystery. She has rejected her Indian culture, family and wants desperately to just blend in at school like everyone else there; poor thing! You can already sniff out that major life lesson Dutta brings up right from the start here; so you might even roll your eyes a bit when it’s clear that Sam will come around. She must, and it won’t be easy.

One day, after confronting a former friend, the incident awakens a mythological demon-like spirit that had clung to Sam’s ex-best friend (Tamira played by Mohana Krishnan) but now wants to get closer to her. What kind of evil is this? Where did it originate? What’s the plan? It just dips into Sam’s mind mysteriously as anything.

This entity also has some great surprises in store for any person who tries to keep Sam away from it, including Joyce (Betty Gabriel from Get Out and The Purge: Election Year), Sam’s teacher who finds herself in battle with the strange creature. Others join in too and there is some horror trope B character disposal going on here. Plus, what about the strange disappearance of Tamira? But where? Cue: chilling terror.

Overall, this fright-fest provides a roller-coaster ride for its audience. It Lives Inside is scary fun all around! By the time Sam and her mother (Neeru Bajwa) realize what is happening – linked to Indian mythology – mother says “never sleep with a bad feeling in your hearts because there’s a dark thing that feeds on those feelings.”

No kidding. Sometimes Sam sees this thing that is scary in a bone-chilling way as it slowly begins its cruel purposes, first maddening Sam and later making her lose everyone who loves her. It doesn’t kill you right away, her mother said. It tortures you slowly but when it is ready, the soul is gone.

What’s interesting here and separates It Lives Inside from other horror films with big scares is how effectively the filmmakers plunge into Hindu mysticism. The only way for Sam to stay alive is to find a manner of embracing the culture she abandoned. A crash course in cultural heritage or something like that but it works and connects Sam back to herself and gives her purpose—not just for herself but also for her family and Tamira whom she still thinks can be saved.

Bishal Dutta keeps things relatively streamlined and sparse when showing us what’s tormenting the hell out of poor ole Sam. But what they show will make you say WTF creepy? We have quick jump cuts, lighting changes, lots of red to colorize and picture blood everywhere else which are all done by special effects team with precision yet without startling. Writing itself was good as audience knows what’s at stake and even then when they take Sam through the traditional horror film motions during last 15 minutes—I wouldn’t say that it took away from overall experience.

The director says one of his main goals here was to make a memorable horror flick about family & heritage—and Dutta nails that aspect without getting too preachy about anything else in his movie. In an age where 9/10 horror movies really do suck because they rely too much on clichés found in familiar horror movies; well, It Lives Inside does hit some notes like these ones although most of them are fresh. Despite few creative missteps along the way, it’s one of 2016’s more inventive spookshows we’ll stumble across this year—how about this spine-tingling frightful fun?

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