A child of two cultures, Samidha’s home life with her parents reflects her East Indian heritage, her traditionally dressed mother Poorna maintaining the rituals and celebrations of their homeland and keeping connections with the local Indian community while her father Inesh has adapted himself more to western life, but at school she is just Sam, confident and comfortable and popular with peers and teachers, though there have been sacrifices made to assimilate.
Samidha’s best friend since they were children, Tamira is an outcast even in the welcoming corridors of Wooderson Grove High School, hiding in shadows, her hair hanging in her face, clutching a glass jar to which she whispers, Sam now reticent to be seen with her lest she be tarnished; when Tamira approaches her to ask for help, Sam reacts badly, slapping the jar from her hands and watching as it smashes on the ground, Tamira fleeing in genuine terror and vanishing even as Sam runs to get help.
Inspired by writer and director Bishal Dutta’s own experiences of moving from India to North America as a child, shot in Vancouver It Lives Inside is set in a nice neighbourhood of comfortable modern homes but is informed by the mythology of his former homeland, the Pishach a flesh-eating demon of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs whose shadow has fallen over first Tamira (Mohana Krishnan) and now Samidha (Megan Suri).
Haunted by something lurking in the corner of her room, hiding from the light and seen only by its glittering eyes, an invisible presence with sharp claws which draw blood, like Samidha the Pishach exists in two worlds, straddling the boundary between them, a teenage girl afraid of the alienation which will come from associating with the school freak and a demon hungry for flesh and souls to torture.
Told through a different cultural lens like the recently released Blood Flower, despite the vibrant visuals and ideas and the ensemble which includes The Purge: Election Year’s Betty Gabriel as supportive teacher Joyce, It Lives Inside never takes full advantage of its opportunities, a new perspective perhaps but an old story which requires an unconscionable dereliction of parental duty, Sam somehow not immediately grounded with around the clock supervision after she is witness first to Tamira’s disappearance then an unexplained murder.
Frustratingly slow and with the design of the Pishach lacking originality, the jaws of the apparition from Experiment IV atop a generic design, It Lives Inside is not a bad film but nor does it fulfil the obvious potential of its elements, the most surprising thing about it that it is a high school horror which isn’t filled by obnoxious teenagers focused solely on being cruel to one another for imaginary popularity points, all the characters portrayed with sympathy even where they lack the presence of mind to step up to the situation.
It Lives Inside is on general release from Friday 20th October