It Lives Inside is a 2023 American supernatural horror film written and directed by Bishal Dutta and starring Megan Suri. The film debuted at the 2023 South by Southwest film festival, and was released by Neon on September 22, 2023.
Sam is an American high school student of Indian origin who has been assimilating into western society. While her mother Poorna is insistent that Sam continues to follow traditions and pay respect to her heritage, her father Inesh is less strict towards her. At school, Sam shuns her mother’s packed lunches in favor of American meals and is friends with several white students, including a budding romance with classmate Russ. In exchange for this, Sam grown apart from her former best friend and fellow Indian student Tamira, who is now a social outcast for acting withdrawn and carrying a strange glass jar. This concerns their teacher Joyce, but Sam believes Tamira is fine.
At night, Tamira feeds the jar raw meat but something inside starts damaging it. The next day at school, Tamira privately approaches Sam for help in the locker rooms. She claims that a supernatural entity from a story they were told as children lives in the jar Tamira found and has been terrorising her. Sam, embarrassed and frustrated by Tamira, smashes the jar open, causing Tamira to have a panic attack. When Sam leaves to get help, Tamira is attacked by an invisible entity and goes missing. Sam feels guilty and begins to fear there is something sinister going on. She recovers a notebook Tamira had in her possession containing strange Sanskrit writings.
Tamira is revealed to have been abducted and held captive by the entity, which attacks and mutilates her. Sam begins to notice a strange presence around her and starts to look into Tamira’s claims. Meanwhile, Poorna grows more frustrated by Sam’s disregard for Indian traditions, especially when she skips a special prayer for Tamira to hang out with Russ. Sam and Russ go to an abandoned house that belonged to another Indian student called Karan, who died alongside his family in a supposed murder-suicide. The pair discover drawings depicting a creature on the walls. The strange phenomena escalates, unnerving Sam while Tamira suffers from daily attacks and has an escape attempt foiled.
Sam and Russ visit Karan’s house again where they kiss. Outside, Russ is attacked and killed by an invisible supernatural entity in front of Sam. A traumatised Sam starts to lose her grip on her sanity and suffers from frightening nightmares. Desperate for help, she convinces Joyce to help her decipher some of the book’s texts. Joyce identifies it’s about a demonic spirit known as a Pishach, which feeds off negative energy before consuming its prey’s soul. The only way to stop it is to seal inside something like a jar. Sam asks Poorna for help, who plans to lure out the Pishach. As the pair prepare food and don traditional Indian attire, Joyce is attacked at the school and badly wounded by the entity.
Inesh arrives home, only to be attacked and injured by the Pishach. It also attacks Poorna before being warded off. Sam realizes that Tamira is being held at Karan’s house and races to the property to save her. Inside, she is attacked and stalked by the entity which reveals its true form to Sam. Sam finds Tamira and confronts the entity. Realizing she can be the vessel to hold the Pishach, Sam allows it to enter and inhabit her body.
A year later, Sam has dinner with Tamira, Joyce, Poorna and Inesh, who have all recovered. The group have managed to contain the entity by feeding Sam raw meat, much like Tamira did to the jar. Later, Sam and Tamira reconcile. As Sam assures Tamira that the Pishach will never get out, she gradually begins to look more and more worried until she starts to cry.
- Megan Suri as Sam
- Neeru Bajwa as Poorna
- Mohana Krishnan as Tamira
- Vik Sahay as Inesh
- Gage Marsh as Russ
- Beatrice Kitsos
- Betty Gabriel as Joyce Dixon
On October 14, 2021, Neon and QC Entertainment announced a partnership to produce a then-untitled debut feature from Dutta, starring Megan Suri, Neeru Bajwa, Vik Sahay and Betty Gabriel. Principal photography started the same day in Vancouver.
Dutta took inspiration for the film from his own childhood experience of being born in India prior to moving to North America. The story is influenced by Indian demonic mythology as well as a personal story from Dutta’s grandfather. Dutta explained:
“After I moved to North America from India at the age of four, a lot of my social education came from watching American horror films. I always wondered, what were families like mine doing while Bruce the shark tore through Amity’s waters, while Freddy Krueger slashed teenagers in the dreamscape, and while Jack Torrance chased his son through the maze-like halls of the Overlook? As it developed, It Lives Inside formed its own dual identity much like mine. On one hand, it is a love letter to the community and culture that raised me while on the other, it is a visceral experience that is designed to instill the same raw terror in its viewers that my favorite horror films instilled in me.”
The film debuted at the 2023 South by Southwest film festival. It was released on September 22, 2023.
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