7:15pm • Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023 • State Theater
In horror as a multi-disciplinary genre, the supernatural often serves as a metaphorical reflection of societal fears and anxieties. I don’t watch horror movies very often, but I found the trailer for It Lives Inside intriguing. From my outsider’s perspective, something I’ve noticed about horror is that it tends to be a very white- and male-dominated genre. In contrast, It Lives Inside centers on a community of Indian immigrants within white, small-town America, including teenage protagonist Samidha (Megan Suri, Never Have I Ever) and her family. I was drawn to the film’s exploration of racism, assimilation and community through the lens of horror.
In It Lives Inside, Samidha is assimilating into (white) American society, distancing herself from her cultural traditions and from her family, community, and former best friend, Tamira (Mohana Krishnan). In contrast, Tamira is an outcast, living in perpetual fear of the thing trapped in a blackened mason jar she carries everywhere. When Samidha and Tamira fight, Samidha breaks the jar, releasing an evil spirit called the Pishach. The movie’s plot focuses on Samidha’s battle with the Pishach, a demon from Hindu mythology which feeds on human flesh. In this rendition, the Pishach feeds upon Samidha and Tamira’s anxieties and insecurities as second-generation immigrants until it can capture them and devour their souls.
One thing I love about It Lives Inside is how the movie emphasizes the necessity of community and solidarity in facing evil, real or supernatural. The Pishach alienates Tamira and Samidha from their families, friends, and supporters, preventing them from seeking help. However, it is when Samidha finally reaches out to her mother (Neeru Bajwa) and her teacher (Betty Gabriel, Get Out), she finds out that one cannot face the Pishach alone and survive–she needs help from her loved ones and community. It is only by reconnecting with her cultural traditions that Samidha can survive the evil forces threatening to consume her.
Importantly, It Lives Inside manages to explore overarching issues of racism, assimilation, and community without making sweeping generalizations about an entire population. In an interview with writer-director Bishal Dutta, he describes how he hoped to “represent [his] culture in a loving kind of way without trying to make a statement about Indian Americans or the Indian population” (Fort Worth Report, 2023) which comes across beautifully in this film. Samidha and the other characters are portrayed as more than “types,” and while the film incorporates social realities like racism, it centers on the unique lives and relationships among its characters.
Overall, I enjoyed It Lives Inside both as entertainment and as a work fitting into a larger commentary on society. It wasn’t too scary for me, but it definitely kept me at the edge of my seat, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a fresh movie to see in the coming weeks.