It Lives Inside REVIEW: Unleashing the Darkness
A specialist in short films, filmmaker Bishal Dutta made his debut with his first feature film, "It Lives Inside," last March at SXSW. The audience's response was relatively encouraging, as Bishal Dutta walked away with the Midnighters Audience Award. Dutta thus joins the new generation of directors who delve into horror, or rather into "elevated horror," to borrow a term from Scream (2022). Does the film live up to its ambitious themes?
"Haunted by the strange behavior of a classmate, Samidha must learn to make peace with her Indian heritage in order to battle a demonic entity and save her friend from the clutches of evil."
Right from the opening with its macabre long take, "It Lives Inside" establishes a sense of dread that persists throughout this descent into hell. Competent but derivative, the final result takes us into familiar formulas and a predictable rhythm that prevent us from fully immersing ourselves in the madness.
The direction allows for terrifying imagery and creative camera movements, which are, however, trapped within a poorly woven script. The demonic presence is there, the great strength of this film lies in the grim atmosphere soaked in red and black. The Indian traditions and Hindu mythology add personality and richness to the film, which is greatly appreciated even if the potential is not fully realized.
There's something to be said about the work on the practical special effects, considering the production budget. Despite a certain lack of originality, the supernatural manifestations follow one another, delivering an allegory about depression and an interesting message about cultural acceptance. A feeling of déjà vu? "It Lives Inside" borrows current themes that appear in several modern horror films and stumbles slightly in execution. Eventually, we fall into a zone of predictability and a trap of clichés that prevents the final work from reaching its full potential.
Nevertheless, the exploration of Hindu folklore with the Pishacha - a flesh-eating demon - elevates the material and gives rise to unsettling horror sequences that are worth the price of admission. It's hard to ignore the many visible influences of horror cinema through these moments of terror: the contortion from The Ring, the light play from Lights Out, the invisibility power from Predator, and the suburban atmosphere of Halloween. We even get a Necronomicon Doppelgänger and a creature straight out of an H.P. Lovecraft work. Your appreciation of the film is likely to vary depending on your tolerance for these homages, which aren't always subtle.
Also worth noting is the presence of the young lead actress, Megan Suri, who should catch Hollywood's attention after her performance. All in all, it's an intriguing mix of satanic incantations, cultural immersion, and teen horror that should find its audience upon its theatrical (or streaming) release.
Initial Score: 6/10
It Lives Inside opens in theaters on September 22nd
Ma critique en français sur le site de Horreur Québec