Combustible Celluloid Review - It Lives Inside (2023), Bishal Dutta, Ashish Mehta, Bishal Dutta, Megan Suri, Neeru Bajwa, Mohana Krishnan, Betty Gabriel, Vik Sahay, Gage Marsh, Beatrice Kitsos
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With: Megan Suri, Neeru Bajwa, Mohana Krishnan, Betty Gabriel, Vik Sahay, Gage Marsh, Beatrice Kitsos
Written by: Bishal Dutta, Ashish Mehta
Directed by: Bishal Dutta
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for terror, violent content, bloody images, brief strong language and teen drug use
Running Time: 99
Date: 09/22/2023

It Lives Inside (2023)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Falling Jar

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Despite an admirable attempt to incorporate Indian culture and identity into its fabric, this horror movie unfortunately follows a tired, familiar formula, beat by beat, and disappoints in the end.

American-Indian high school student Samidha, or "Sam" (Megan Suri) struggles with her identity, abandoning her childhood friend Tamira (Mohana Krishnan), befriending the clueless Kittie (Beatrice Kitsos), and pining after the school hunk Russ (Gage Marsh). Lately Tamira has been acting strange, looking jittery and exhausted and carrying around a glass jar.

She approaches Sam, asking for help. She claims that something evil and powerful is in the jar and is getting stronger, but Sam smashes it. Soon Tamira has disappeared, and Sam begins seeing strange and terrifying things, and people around her begin dying. With help from her teacher, Joyce (Betty Gabriel), and, eventually, her strict mother, Poorna (Neeru Bajwa), Sam must identify the evil force and find a way to stop it.

A feature writing and directing debut by Indian-born Bishal Dutta, It Lives Inside is incisive when it comes to dealing with the immigrant experience. Samidha wants to be seen as a "normal" American. She shortens her name to "Sam," befriends a blonde girl and seeks a White boyfriend, and only speaks English at home, while her traditional mother speaks Hindi. Her relationship with Tamira is heartbreaking, openly leaving behind her old friend behind to seek her new "look." Dutta even incorporates language and tradition into his story, such as Poorna preparing a feast as an offering. Ultimately, defeating the demon is equivalent to Sam reclaiming her culture.

All this aside, however, the main thrust of the story is flatly uninspired. It's a typical horror story about a demon who latches onto a new victim, the search for the demon's origins, and then finding a way to stop the demon, followed by an "or is it?" ending. It Lives Inside just seems to go through the motions, so lackadaisical that it contains not one but two "nightmare" sequences and several other creaky cliches. It can't even keep track of when it's raining. (The rain starts and stops on a dime throughout.) Perhaps Dutta would have been better off embracing the personal even more closely, rather than trying to fit into a pre-made genre mold.

For some reason Neon sent me a DVD for review, rather than the Blu-ray, but from what I can tell, it looks fine. There are no bonuses, but we get optional English, Spanish, and English SDH subtitles, a 5.1 audio track and a descriptive audio track, and chapter selections. The disc includes trailers for Eileen and Oldboy at startup.

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