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Bishal Dutta
Megan Suri, Neeru Bajwa, Mohana Krishnan
Writing Credits:
Bishal Dutta

After Sam has a falling out with her former best friend, she unwittingly releases a demonic entity that grows stronger by feeding on her loneliness.

Rated PG-13.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Audio Description 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 99 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 11/7/2023

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It Lives Inside [Blu-Ray] (2023)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 15, 2024)

On the surface, 2023’s It Lives Inside might look like a standard horror flick. However, it comes with cultural commentary that makes it different than the usual Hollywood fare.

An American teen of Indian descent, Sam (Megan Suri) lives with her “assimilated” father Inesh (Vik Sahay) and her more traditional mother Poorna (Neeru Bajwa). Sam struggles with her identity across these two cultures.

For reasons unknown to Sam, her estranged friend Tamira (Mohana Krishnan) always carries around an empty Mason jar. In a fit of anger, Sam breaks this vessel and inadvertently releases an ancient demon.

When we first meet Sam – whose birth name is “Samidha”, shortened to fit in – we see her shave her arms and also use photo filters to lighten images of herself posted onto social media. Thus we immediately get the sense of a teen eager to mesh with a white American society.

Of course, a huge percentage of high schoolers strive to fit in with the perceived “norms”, so Sam doesn’t seem unique. Still, the focus on her Indian heritage adds a twist to what otherwise might seem like a standard “teen outcast” tale.

Though we clearly see Sam doesn’t exist on the margins as some ostracized nerd, and that leads to her detachment from Tamira. Whereas her old pal comes across as an oddball, Sam appears fairly popular.

Albeit with an edge, as it seems clear the white kids view her as something of an exotic curiosity. While they seem to mean well, their curiosity about Sam’s cultural differences just exacerbates her sense that she doesn’t mesh as well as she wants.

All of this sets us up for a horror film with character elements that should make it something distinctive. Unfortunately, these cultural domains come across as little more than windowdressing.

This means Inside fails to develop Sam or her personal domains especially well. Her conflicts related to her Indian heritage don’t become important to the movie’s story in the broader content.

In other words, Sam’s cultural areas don’t matter in the greater scheme of things. Change the lead to an ordinary white teen and it wouldn’t take much to revamp the narrative.

Oh, Inside wraps the tale of the demon in Indian elements. Nonetheless, these remain largely superfluous and could easily be replaced by some other mythology.

This leaves Inside to succeed or fail as a pure horror movie. While it doesn’t flop, it also never becomes anything memorable.

Inside fluctuates between a moody psychological sense of terror and more overt reliance on jump scares. The two sides don’t connect in an especially smooth manner.

As a result, Inside can feel like it lacks confidence. Because the tone veers from something more internal and mental to a basic monster movie, we sense that the filmmakers wanted to cover all bases.

Like many modern scary flicks, Inside would likely work better if it tried less hard – and that comes back to the implied lack of confidence. A movie that felt more like a standard teen drama that then gradually moved toward horror would pack more of a punch.

Instead, the filmmakers telegraph the terror from the very start, as even Sam’s typical teen interactions come with a foreboding vibe. I get that audiences seem less and less willing to show the patience to wait for a “slow build”, but that doesn’t mean I agree with the choice to shove in fright right off the bat and not allow for a gradual evolution.

None of these factors make Inside a bad movie. In truth, it fares perfectly well compared to its 2020s-era peers.

But that stems from the lackluster nature of so many recent horror films. This turns into a serviceable scarefest that nonetheless disappoints because it fails to take real advantage of its unusual cultural dynamics.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

It Lives Inside appears in an aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a generally positive presentation.

Sharpness looked solid. A few lower-light shots were slightly soft, but not to a substantial degree, so most of the movie seemed accurate and concise.

No jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes. Source flaws were a non-factor, as the movie stayed clean.

Like most modern flicks, Inside favored a decided teal and amber/orange palette. Within these parameters, the colors appeared solid.

Blacks seemed deep and tight, while shadows were smooth and well-delineated. In the end, the transfer proved to be appealing.

I also felt positive about the pretty good DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Inside. Given the nature of the story, moody environmental information dominated the mix.

These elements filled out the speakers in a fairly involving manner. The movie didn’t become a constant whiz-bang soundfield, but it created a decent sense of place.

The more active “scare moments” used the spectrum in the most dynamic manner, but they failed to appear on a frequent basis. Instead, music and moody ambience became the most prominent components.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and concise. Effects depicted the elements with acceptable accuracy and boasted pleasing low-end when necessary.

Music showed positive clarity and range, and they also packed solid bass response at times. This was a perfectly positive mix for the material.

The disc opens with ads for Eileen and Oldboy. No trailer for Inside or other extras appear on the disc.

With a story that embraces an Indian-American teen, It Lives Inside comes with cultural elements that should allow it to differ from its genre peers. Unfortunately, these components don’t add up to much, so instead we wind up with a fairly standard horror movie. The Blu-ray delivers positive picture and audio but it comes with no bonus materials. Inside winds up as a watchable but ordinary scary flick.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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