Being a teenage girl is all kinds of horror in itself, especially when you're South Asian girl in America trying to juggle all your identities. Add a demon that feeds off your loneliness, and you have the perfect recipe for a disaster, to say the least. This is what Bishal Dutta's recently released debut film It Lives Inside is about: conquering demons, both inner and real ones.
The plot of the film revolves around Samidha, an Indian American teenage girl, struggling to navigate her dual identity. Her life takes a dark turn when she becomes the target of a malevolent entity that feeds off of loneliness and negativity. Throughout the movie, the demon gains control over Samidha, possessing her soul and body, and manipulating her behaviour. The film emphasizes that the demon requires a vessel for containment, preventing it from breaking free and possessing other bodies easily. And with Sam being the current vessel, her fate is left uncertain.
It Lives Inside brings a unique cultural dimension to the genre. Whether it's the use of 'Pishach', a flesh-eating demon from the folklore of Hindu and Buddhist mythologies as the embodiment of evil or the identity conflicts that immigrants, especially second-generation individuals like Samidha, grapple with. It sheds light on the struggles of balancing multiple identities and the disconnection felt from one's own culture, offering a relatable and thought-provoking narrative that extends beyond typical horror conventions.
Although the reviews are divided about the film's success as a horror, Bishal Dutta's skill in creating a tense atmosphere through character relationships and battles with personal demons shines. The film's sinister tone elevates the common horror elements, such as the shadowy figure of the Pishach, the under-exposure, and the air heavy with imminent danger to new heights. It also triumphs in creating an emotional link with Indian Americans with similar struggles of a cultural identity.
In the cinematic landscape where horror has often remained firmly rooted in Western tropes and settings, It Lives Inside, distantly related to Jordan Peele's Get Out, carves a space to dissect the immigrant experience against the backdrop of horror. Where it lacks in nuance, it makes up in the attempt to close the gap of cultural dissonance that centuries of colonialism have left us with. It is a reminder that horror, at its core, is not just about jump scares and eerie atmospheres; it can also be a powerful vehicle for exploring the real-life horrors of identity and assimilation.
Watch the trailer below.