An Indian-American teenager searches for a childhood friend who was kidnapped by a demon.

Since Get Out by Jordan Peele democratized the horror film, it has begun to be available in all ethnic and cultural strata of American cinema.

It Lives Inside is part of this movement. Inspired by its folklore, director Bishal Dutta sets the action of his first feature film among a family of Indian origin. Stuck between a traditional mother and a Western lifestyle, young Sam (Megan Suri) is in the midst of an identity crisis. This is where an old friend resurfaces, carrying with her a mysterious pot. When the latter breaks, the problems begin…

Based on a classic coming-of-age story, the screenplay that Dutta co-wrote with Ashish Mehta uses symbolism in the way it shatters its heroine’s existence into pieces. The pot may contain a demon, but it is also a source of pain, loneliness and alienation. In order to put the pieces back together, the protagonist will have to forge her own personality by accepting the legacy of her origins.

This duality of fragmented identity is at the very heart of the feature film. The filmmaker knows his classics – we’re thinking here of Alien, The Shining, Ringu and Ju-On – and he strives to pay homage to them while forging his own style. This works during sequences where the demonic spirit attacks the characters. Moments of suggestion and pure tension that are accentuated by vigorous execution. It all culminates in a rather enjoyable final confrontation with a surprising monstrous entity.

Bishal Dutta, however, tends to overuse gratuitous outbursts and recurring nightmares, using the metaphor of confinement to the limit. The familiar progression sometimes lacks humor, which would not have harmed the catharsis of these beings.

The latter are played by uneven actors, who sometimes feel too much like they are in a horror film. Fortunately, this is not the case for Megan Suri (seen in Missing), convincing as a teenager overwhelmed by events.

Both a supernatural thriller and a family drama about the painful experience of immigration, It Lives Inside remains an effective piece of entertainment which, while not being very deep or frightening, offers a great calling card to its young creator.

It Lives Inside is presented in theaters in the original English version.