“It Lives Inside” is a supernatural horror and marks the feature-length directorial debut of Bishal Butta, who also penned the script. 

It tells the story of Samidha (Megan Suri), an American/Indian teenager, navigating the delicate balance between integrating into Western culture and the expectations from her mother to uphold and embrace her Eastern heritage. 

In pursuit of popularity, Samidha has distanced herself from long time best friend Tamira (played excellently by Mohana Krishnan). Her betrayal seems somewhat justified when Tamira begins acting strangely, appearing disheveled, constantly showing up late for class, and carrying a peculiar glass jar. During a heated exchange Samidha causes the jar to break, allowing an evil force to escape and wreak havoc upon the teenagers. 

Whilst not the most original plot (how many “teenagers haunted by spirits” movies can one watch?) “It Lives Inside” is very competently made, suggesting a promising future for this first-time director. Butta does a stellar job in creating an atmosphere of mystery and danger, without relying heavily on cliched jumpscares. In fact, I don’t recall a single jumpscare in the first half of the movie. It’s a slow descent into horror, making this far more unsettling than other recent releases such as the horrific (and not in a good way) “Nun 2”. 

A notable achievement lies in the film’s fusion of concepts, blending Western and Eastern culture, complemented by a wonderful soundtrack that manages to seem both 80’s John Carpenter-esque, while sounding distinctly modern. 

However, the film falls short when attempting to deliver a more tangible visual aspect to the horror. While characters are sufficiently well-developed to evoke concern during perilous moments, the death scenes show a distinct level of restraint that screams PG-13. It’s a shame that several well-crafted horror scenes eventually underwhelm, hindered by the absence of any noticeable bloodshed. 

And, as the monster finally makes its on-screen appearance, much of the horror dissipates when one notices it’s the same generic creature we’ve seen get kicked around by teenagers in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or by children in Stranger Things. 

The film mostly succeeds in its more creepy and atmospheric moments, but doesn’t quite manage to stick the landing.

Despite ample opportunities for much more poignant and horrifying endings, the director instead opted for a much safer option, reiterating the level of inhibition. 

Overall, “It Lives Inside” is not without flaws, however there is much to appreciate. While it may not become a massive hit, or be remembered in ten years time, it is worth watching, and does suggest at greater possibilities where this director could perhaps eschew the PG-13 constraints, and do something really special. 

RATING = 3.5 out of 5.0 

  • Directed by: Bishal Dutta
  • Written by: Bishal Dutta and Ashish Mehta
  • Starring: Megan Suri and Mohana Krishnan
  • Run Time: 1hr 39min
  • Budget: $30,000,000 est.
  • RatedPg-13 (US)
  • Released: Sept. 22nd, 2023 (US) | Oct. 20th, (UK)

Review by Ross McCarthy, Dublin based screenwriter and stand-up comedian.

It Lives Inside Trailer