It Lives Inside – scaring away the hole in our culture

September 21, 2023
2 mins read


It Lives Inside FILM REVIEW

GARY STEEL reviews an old-fashioned fright flick with one big difference: a focus on immigrant cultures.


It must be hellishly hard to come up with a new idea in the horror genre. The same old templates have been used over and over for more than a century now, with mostly only small twists to vary the formula for the changing aesthetics of new generations seeking vicarious thrills in darkened rooms.

While Hollywood continues to labour over ideas about as fresh as last Millennium’s zombie spew, there are a few maverick writers digging out fresh ways to give life to a threadbare scene. No, we don’t need another house on a haunted hill or a recreation of The Exorcist, that just won’t do.

It Lives Inside sounds from its generic title like standard horror fodder. There are predictable elements to this new film, but thankfully these are made more palatable partly by the sympathetic nature of character depiction, and partly by its focusing on an immigrant Indian family who have made their home in provincial America.

The evil entity is something from Hindu folklore, but because the teenage girls who are menaced by the demonic spirit have become model American citizens with little knowledge of their own culture, they don’t know the prescribed process involved in dealing with its life-threatening, murderous quest.

At its heart, It Lives Inside is a film about the importance of staying connected to your own culture, even if you’re effectively assimilated into a new society with a mishmash of cultural influences. It also wins brownie points for fairly nuanced performances, and although there’s not a lot of character development, we get some insight into the main girl’s family life, and there’s a warm humanism at work in the depiction of her father as a caring individual (rare in modern movies). In fact, the only nasty character here is the beast him/itself. Even the boyfriend is a real sweetie and there’s an innocence to his character.

Megan Suri is superb as Sam, and with her unfeasibly large eyes and natural demeanour you can’t help plumping for her through her ordeal. Mohana Krishnan is also great as the haunted (and mostly captive) Tamira, as is Betty Gabriel as her teacher, Joyce.

Like most of the best horror films, it’s mostly what you don’t see that provides the best frights, although the film does make subtle use of SFX. There’s some blood but no gore, and it relies more on close-ups of faces paralysed with fear than anything else to convey the real horror.

It Lives Inside is a decent horror that’s well worth a watch, though it won’t make it to the top echelons of the genre because there’s just too much of a suspension of disbelief required to take it entirely seriously. One scene especially stands out in this regard. Right at the beginning of the film Tamira arrives late to class looking like a completely demented nutcase and carrying a nasty-looking jar like her life depended on it, and ­noone challenges her on it or enquires as to what it’s all about! It seems equally bizarre that Sam won’t tell her teacher – who later expresses concern – anything about her relationship with the girl, even though they had been best friends.

Of course, horror films traditionally have huge holes in their plots which require the audience to ignore them and focus on the cool stuff, and there are much worse examples than this. However, the lovely acting performances and fine camerawork give the film a patina of quality that those plot and dialogue discrepancies tend to highlight.

Horror buffs (like me) and those who simply like a good scare will both enjoy It Lives Inside. I did.

+ It Lives Inside screens from today (Thursday September 21) at independent New Zealand cinemas.
















Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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