Keith’s Movie Korner: ‘It lives inside’ but dies on the screen

By Keith Walther | Rose Law Group Reporter

Sometimes horror films can get away with a low budget like “Blair Witch Project,” and sometimes they can’t. “It Lives Inside” provides a valiant effort, but its limited finances prove to be its undoing. There are frightfully entertaining moments to be had throughout the film, but the visual effects, mediocre acting, and predictable storyline diminish the returns.

Sam (Megan Suri) is an Indian-American teen learning to fit in at her high school and rebel against her very traditional mother Poorna (Neeru Bajwa) who holds on to her heritage with a vice grip, speaking only in Hindi and regularly practicing religious ceremonies. When Sam’s former childhood friend Tamira (Mohana Krishnan) begins showing up to school looking a bit worse for wear and oddly holding a jar in front of her that looks like a science experiment gone wrong inside, she decides to engage her fearful looking ex-friend. After hearing preposterous gibberish of the evil that lurks inside the jar, Sam angrily shatters the jar, unknowingly unleashing a demonic presence that immediately kidnaps Tamira.

The demon is straight out of Hindu mythology, feeding on flesh and souls. Sam comes to the realization she has a limited time to find and rescue Tamira from the hell beast. She also discovers any help she receives from others puts them in immediate and lethal danger. A desperate plan against a formidable opponent who has the power of invisibility is Sam’s only chance at survival.

While the premise is creative and promotes good exposure to Indian culture and beliefs, the unimaginative execution and cliched horror genre tactics lead to predictable outcomes. This is the feature film debut for writer/director Bishal Dutta, and his inexperience shows, but he also shows promise. He exhibits a good eye for cinematography, using creative shots and angles along with dark and red lighting to help generate more suspense and fear. He frequently and smartly uses closeups to narrow visibility and heighten the emotional tension.

The visual effects, on the other hand, are nothing short of laughable and are representative of its shoestring budget. When the monster makes its grand appearance later in the film, an eruption of giggles fills the theater, eliminating all semblance of horror and making the audience wish it had remained invisible. From that point on, the production turns into something more akin to what you would find on the CW network.

The acting is not bad, but it certainly doesn’t elevate it from that prior assessment. Playing the lead is Megan Suri, who made her first big splash in the movies with a supporting role in “Missing” earlier this year. She’s a capable young actress who is able to hold her own in her biggest role to date, believably playing a rebellious teen with modern day anti-social tendencies. She does occasionally miss her mark, looking in the wrong direction, and has a difficult time generating fearful responses that does erode her performance a bit. The rest of the cast is serviceable but nothing to write home about.

In the low budget horror film arena this year, “Talk to Me” is an overall better film which isn’t saying a whole lot. “It Lives Inside” has its scary moments, especially early in the production, but the predictability and silly monster reveal make this a movie you can skip or at least wait until streaming is available.

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September 2023