Monday, May 20, 2024

It Lives Inside movie review & film summary (2023)

One wishes Dutta pulled the weight of assimilation further, closer to what Remi Weekes did with “His House,” another horror flick similarly affixed to the immigrant experience. There are some hints that Dutta wants to take that route: We learn how the monster may have origins back in India and that it has passed between multiple Indian families, individuals who also feel isolated. But Dutta is too concerned with fashioning a less-than-successful suburban teen narrative. 

The primary reason Sam wants to fit in, as with any teen, but especially someone afraid of the cultural repercussions that come from being different, is for social cache. When one of her teenage friends is murdered in her presence, however, we never see the ramifications for Sam at school. She just continues to go to class. For an area suspicious of Brown people, these pearl-clutching white folks certainly aren’t searching for any answers. There’s no police presence, no outreach from the kid’s parents, no confrontation between Sam and literally anybody in this tiny community. It simply makes no sense. If you want to be a teen movie, you must keep viewers in that milieu rather than relying on the basic building blocks cobbled from other, better films.  

The visual language restricts the viewer too: While Dutta and cinematographer Matthew Lynn rely on close-ups (granting an immersive touch), they also love copying Spike Lee’s double dolly shot. Rather than waiting for a key moment to unleash it, however, they use the move three times, each less successful in translating the interior angst felt by Sam than the last. Bad match cuts meant to instill horror fall flat, too, as does the basic sound design. The final freakout, a showdown in a basement between Sam and the monster, stretches on for far too long, losing rhythm and pace as Dutta maneuvers for an avenue to a sequel. 

Telling an Indian-American horror story, particularly one set in suburbia, should have allowed for plenty of rich opportunities. With major deficiencies like plot, themes, and tension holding Dutta’s film back, “It Lives Inside” is merely average on the outside.

Now playing in theaters. 

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HomeReviewsIt Lives Inside movie review & film summary (2023)

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