Inside

Review of ‘It Lives Inside’ set in a Hindu community in the US

August 30, 2023 Mario Bautista 542 views

Inside1IT Lives Inside’ is a horror movie directed by an Indian-American, Bishal Dutta, and this is his directorial debut. It is set it in a community of Hindu migrants in America.

We’ve had movies about Chinese Americans, Korean Americans and now, this is about Indian Americans. The lead character is Samidha or Sam (Megan Suri, from the Netflix show “Never Have I Ever”), who lives with her parents, her mom Poorna (Neeru Bajwa) and dad Inesh (Vic Sahay.)

Her mom, who continues to talk in Hindi, is wondering why she speaks only in English and no longer talk in their own language. She’s also disappointed that Sam has no interest in participating in Hindu family events that is part of their ethnic heritage.

It’s obvious Sam is torn between two cultures: her Indian roots and her American upbringing. She really wants to be assimilated in the western culture and lifestyle of her high school friends and she even entertains a Caucasian boy, Russ (Gage Marsh), her classmate who is wooing her.

She also distances herself from her childhood best friend, Tamira (Mohana Krishnan), who looks so disturbed and is forever holding a big and mysterious mason jar. She looks like she is on the verge of a mental and emotional breakdown.

When Tamira finally gets to talk to her about a problem that is nagging her, she accidentally breaks the mason jar when it falls into the concrete floor. She doesn’t know that she has released an ancient Indian entity calls pischach, who allegedly eats souls, that Tamira has already imprisoned inside the jar.

Tamira goes missing and the evil spirit then starts to haunt Sam, even killing her boyfriend after they’ve kissed. She also starts to have frightening visions.

She tells her parents about her dilemma. They won’t believe her at first, but they soon band together, along with Sam’s teacher, Joyce (Betty Gabriel), who also gets haunted by the entity.

The movie makes use of conventional horror tropes and, including the usual jump scares. What sets it apart is the incorporation of Hindu folklore that disrupts the lead character, and the plight of an Asian immigrant living in a Western culture who wants to belong.

Suri gives a credible performance as the harassed teenager who not only has to contend with the evil spirit but also her conservative mother. The basic dynamic between Sam and her mom creates a tension caused by the complex cross-cultural differences that differentiate the Indian-American experiences of two women who belong to different generations and orientations.

The cultural representation of Indian Americans are rarely seen on screen and most horror flick featuring evil entities are often of a Christian predisposition, so this Hindu spin on this subgenre breathes a different life into the already familiar terrain we see in movies about possession. It also gives us a peek at Indian family festivities as well as Sam’s struggles to suppress her heritage to fit into her family’s new world where they are a minority.

But as a horror movie, we’re afraid it doesn’t really register strongly. The identity first like a black smoke trapped inside the jar and later on, it is seen as a shadow lurking in the dark with bright eyes and immediately disappears when someone turns on the light. But it really fails to deliver some genuine scares. The title may be “It Lives Inside” but the chills it offers are not spooky at all never even really got under our skin.

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