As Halloween approaches, horror fans can look forward to a fun spooky moviegoing experience with It Lives Inside, a creature feature brought to life by director Bishal Dutta. This film introduces a new kind of monster from East Indian folklore and tells a tale of cultural identity and the internal struggles faced by Indian-American teenager Samidha (Megan Suri). Set against the backdrop of the American suburbs in autumn, the movie offers great autumn vibes and enough scares to make it a perfect fit for the Halloween season.
The story revolves around Samidha, Sam for short, who finds herself torn between two worlds. At home, she feels the pressure of her traditionalist mother Poorna (Neeru Bajwa), while at school, she attempts to fit in by shedding any persona tied to her Indian roots. When her childhood friend Tamira (Mohana Krishnan) reveals a mysterious jar with a hungry entity trapped inside, Sam's heritage dangerously collides with her present reality. As the creature escapes and threatens those she loves, Sam must confront her internal struggles to protect herself and her loved ones.
What sets It Lives Inside apart is the allegory it employs, using the monster to symbolize Sam's internal conflicts as an Indian-American navigating her identity in a society that often feels foreign to her roots. The film subtly addresses her attempts to conform to Western society and standards while distancing herself from her family's traditions. Sam's strained relationship with Tamira becomes a poignant reflection of the choices she makes in an attempt to belong. Drawing from the filmmaker's own childhood experience of moving from India to the US, It Lives Inside provides a compelling portrayal of a teenager grappling with two distinct cultures and seeking to reconcile them to find her true self.
The film's structure and runtime are a huge plus here, as the film runs a tight 100 minutes and the story is neatly divided into three acts. The first introduces Sam's character and her struggles with her family and school life, while the second delves into the monster's origin and operations, following some pretty classic creature feature conventions. Finally, the third act delivers on the scares and tensions, culminating in an overall foreseeable yet satisfying resolution.
Although the concept of the monster draws from an interesting inspiration from East Indian mythology, its full reveal falls short in terms of creature features. The creature's design lacks the impact needed to make it truly memorable, and its complete unveiling dampens the overall intrigue the film sets up. I feel as though leaving the monster largely hidden would have served this film better by letting viewers' imaginations run wild.
It Lives Inside may not break new ground in the creature feature sub-genre, but it manages to handle the horror elements effectively. What elevates the film is its well-executed character development and exploration of cultural themes. While it adheres to familiar horror tropes, the engaging narrative and cultural aspects provide ample justification for overlooking the occasional predictable scare. While it may not reinvent the wheel, It Lives Inside certainly delivers enough chills to make it an exciting theater experience for Halloween.