It Lives Inside Director Teams with the Producers of Get Out to Scare the Hell Out of You
Sep 21, 2023
A tripped out girl walks around school carrying an ominous jar. What’s inside of it is anybody’s guess, but inevitably we find out. And so begins the twisted fun in writer/director Bishal Dutta’s (Triads) dynamic new horror film, It Lives Inside. The producers of Get Out — Sean McKittrick and Raymond Mansfield — are attached to this SXSW audience winner, which will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The plot revolves around Sam (Megan Suri of Missing), an Indian-American teenager desperately trying to fit in at school. She’s also struggling with her cultural identity, and during a fight with her former gal pal, she unwittingly releases a mythological demonic entity that grows stronger by feeding on her deep loneliness. Suddenly, Sam must come to terms with her heritage and defeat the beast — or perish.
Ashish Mehta (of the TV series Hush Hush) shares writing credits. The film also stars Neeru Bajwa, Mohana Krishnan, Betty Gabriel, and Vik Sahay. Bishal Dutta revealed more about this gripping horror romp in an exclusive MovieWeb interview. Dive in.
First Family Then Horror
Bishal Dutta hails from India and moved to the States when he was four years old. He grew up as a first-generation immigrant in America pondering his sense of home and place. He says the initial idea for It Lives Inside sprang from an image of a kid on a bike zipping through the idyllic suburbs. He wondered: what if that kid was trying to escape something?
Growing up, he also wondered what families like his own were doing as films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Shining rose to prominence. In that respect, his idea for It Lives Inside held a kind of dual identity much like his own. The film would become part “love letter” to the community and culture that raised him, part gripping horror film, filled with all the raw nerves he experienced watching scary movies.
“A lot of where this movie came from was in terms of me, my friends, and some of my family, and what it was like to figure out an identity,” Dutta said. “Like to not necessarily live in a binary world, as an Indian American, and to figure out what it meant to be both. It’s Indian American film.” He added:
“So, I pulled from a lot of ghost stories that I heard growing up. My grandfather had some stories about something in a mason jar that haunted him. It was a fun process pulling from real emotions that I felt, and it became something resonant for today’s audience in this kind of long, blind ghost story that I thought was really scary.”
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The film hits all the right high marks in horror. As gripping as it is creepy, It Lives Inside is loaded with surprises. The biggest one is that it’s a different kind of horror film that draw upon an underserved culture and its mythology.
“I think there’s a cynicism that we can feel about ghost stories just because of the constant surveillance of the world around us. But when you hear about your grandparents or your great-grandparents and the demons or monsters that they encountered, how close they were, there’s a feeling of primal fear,” Dutta noted.
“So, I think horror movies are important for the collective consciousness of people because they keep us in tune with our primal fears, and those are the kinds of stories I get excited about telling. That’s why it was so important to me to create a family in this movie that felt like the kind of families we see, or similar to our own. I wanted to make this film feel believable in that you wonder, ‘What would I do if that happened? Could that happen to me one day?”
Scary as Hell
The writer/director and special effects team do an excellent job showcasing the eerie mythological creature that makes itself fully known in the second half of It Lives Inside. Dutta admitted that it was challenging to create.
Jaws and Alien influenced me. I love keeping the monster kind of hidden within the audience’s imagination for much of the film.
“The challenge for this creature was really the matter of degrees,” continued Dutta. “You can’t show nothing, because then the audience doesn’t feel a physical presence. And you can’t show everything. I tried to design a fleeting escalation of the monster’s presence. And we worked very hard for it. There’s a sequence in a closet, where the creature’s looking out, and we tried to retain just enough information in the creature\’s space that you understand that something’s in there, but you can’t quite figure out what it is.”
Related: The 10 Scariest Horror Movie Moments of All Time
It’s an effective scene all around and Dutta does a commendable job at conveying that something is out there — a presence, a ferocity. Another noteworthy element to It Lives Inside is its diverse cast. Audiences don’t often see a horror film filled with, or helmed by, multicultural characters.
“I wanted to make sure that the audience could project themselves into these characters and understand the conflicts that they’re going through. Especially Sam, she makes a choice about 20 minutes into the film to break a certain vessel and that choice has some resounding consequences,” Dutta added. “Speaking to the overall diversity of these characters, one thing I love in genre cinema is when a bunch of different points of view are represented and everybody within an audience can project themselves into the film.”
To that end, he said he tried to think about his own family so that audiences could walk into the film and go, “that’s my family.”
I hope what surprises audiences is the emphasis on relationships. We absolutely wanted to make sure that this was a satisfying horror experience, that you get the kinds of thrills that you were craving.
It Lives Inside hits theaters September 22.
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