It Lives Inside Review – IGN

The Cultural Relevance of It Lives Inside

The upcoming horror film, It Lives Inside, presents a unique portrayal of Indian American high schoolers trying to assimilate into American culture while being plagued by an invisible demon. However, despite its potential, the film falls short in its execution. Writer-director Bishal Dutta attempts to incorporate Indian and American cinematic influences, but the result is a disjointed and formulaic narrative. It Lives Inside opens in theaters on September 22, and it is expected to generate mixed reviews.

The Cultural Melting Pot

The film begins with promising and intriguing scenes, featuring charred bodies and a mysterious red-lit suburban house. However, the movie quickly descends into familiar horror tropes, losing much of the initial tension. Along the way, the film attempts to explore Indian Americanness in a superficial manner, showcasing experiences like body hair removal and lunchbox shaming. Although these aspects are relatable to many Indian Americans, they do not add depth to the story as the interactions between characters are largely limited to major plot points.

A Hollow Execution

It Lives Inside unintentionally becomes a parody of recent South Asian American films that aim to encapsulate a diverse cultural experience. The film presents cultural moments in a segmented fashion, using abrupt fades and cuts that disrupt the flow of the narrative. These stylistic choices deflate the already weak tension in the movie.

The portrayal of troubled character Tamira further contributes to the film’s shortcomings. While actress Mohana Krishnan does her best with the character, Tamira often feels like a misappropriation of the Bollywood bhootni archetype. Her idiosyncratic tics and messy hair come across as forced and lacking depth. Instead of creating a disquieting character with hidden troubles, the film resorts to projecting a caricature that invites bullying without emotional allure.

The Journey Begins

When Tamira mysteriously disappears, Sam must unravel the clues left behind in a strange diary. With the help of her teacher, Joyce, and classmate Russ, Sam uncovers a demonic presence that can only be vanquished by trapping it. The film incorporates elements of Hindu cultural rituals and mantras as part of this process, mirroring Christian rituals in The Exorcist. However, these ideas are not fully explored or given enough focus to carry symbolic weight.

A Missed Opportunity

It Lives Inside attempts to represent Indian culture but falls short due to its lack of specificity and thoughtfulness. The movie features characters and cultural traditions associated with an “upper” caste Brahmin community, but fails to address the implications and complexities attached to these choices. The depiction of “upper” caste Hindu rituals and chants without considering the political and social context can be seen as careless and tone-deaf.

Ultimately, the film struggles to find its footing, with a cartoonish movie monster and a lack of visual and narrative tension. Apart from a brief period of excitement toward the end, the film fails to captivate the audience. It Lives Inside opens doors for important discussions about cultural representation in cinema, but unfortunately, it may not be a film worth the trouble for many viewers.