SPOILERS are ahead for It Lives Inside. The horror movie is now playing in theaters.
Some of the best horror movies of all time employ fears and worries from real life into cinematic scares. That’s certainly the case with Bishal Dutta’s It Lives Inside. The new movie all started with a ghost story the filmmaker was told by his grandfather growing up about a young girl talking to an empty Mason jar. Then it was transformed into a terrifying film about two teen girls being haunted by a demonic spirit from Hindu and Buddhist mythology. The writer/director spoke to CinemaBlend about the movie's roots and what his family thought about his feature debut.
At its core, It Lives Inside is a family story that cleverly comments on the difficulties that can come from being a child of immigrants. Never Have I Ever cast member Megan Suri leads the film as Sam, a teen who actively avoids her Indian heritage by distancing herself from her childhood best friend Tamira, until she unknowingly unleashes an entity that forces her to face her dual identity. Writer/director Bishal Dutta shared how his own family was involved in the making of the movie, saying this:
They were some of the first people to see the movie and it was just so gratifying to get to show it to them. And, certainly, I can't call [the movie] autobiographical, I've never experienced life as a teenage girl. However, there were things, you know, anecdotes and stories that I pulled from myself and from family members and friends. But, what was so kind of exciting about that relationship between Sam and her mom that really kind of felt like almost this sort of backbone of the movie. I felt like both of them were at two ends of a spectrum, right? It felt like Sam is very firmly on the side of American and Tamira felt very firmly on the side of Indian.
Dutta had the chance to collaborate with the producers behind Get Out for It Lives Inside to make a horror movie that has a story with roots in his own experience growing up as an Indian-American child of immigrants. While it’s not necessarily “autobiographical," as he shares, it was definitely inspired by his upbringing. As he continued:
And, I didn't wanna say that either one was correct, if that makes sense. I didn't wanna say that either one is right. And I think the structure of the movie necessitates that the two of them kind of come together and synthesize a solution that is correct for both of them. So in that sense, I think what was great about showing it to my family is I think we all had a similar process too, where we all kind of met in the middle and I think every family does. You meet in the middle, you find the common ground and then you're united from that point on.
As unsettling as It Lives Inside’s ending is, Sam finds herself in a better place with her family and her acceptance of her heritage. She has the demon living inside her, but she has found this middle ground that Dutta speaks of where she meets in the middle between her own identity and accepting where she comes from.
During our interview, Dutta admitted that his parents are not always fond of the horror genre, once leaving during the family’s outing to see The Conjuring. However, they appreciated how he used the genre to implement his story about the immigrant experience. In his words:
Oh man, they're very appreciative of this one. I don't think my dad goes in the basement anymore in the dark, so I think I had a good effect on them. But no, this movie speaks to the many things this movie does because I think they were scared of it, and they had that kind of thrill ride experience. But I think they also had such an emotional response just as I do watching it. Because I think we're really trying to tell a very emotional, resonant kind of story within the context of a very scary horror movie.
It Lives Inside gave Bishal Dutta a chance to bring the rare South Asian-led movie to the horror genre. We can’t wait to see what Dutta does next, such as whether his hopes to revive the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise will come to fruition. You can keep track of what upcoming horror movies are coming out next as spooky season continues here on CinemaBlend.