After seeing the trailer for It Lives Inside, I was excited to see what the film had in store for me. The trailer teases an intense ride with lots of action and interesting special effects. What ends up on the screen is more of an intense slow burn that shows a man battling the demons that dwell both within him and in his home. If a slow and more internalized pace is what interests you, It Lives Inside may be right up your alley.
A family moves into a small house and find a box containing some ashes and a strange book. The man injures himself while doing yard work, and this begins a slow slide down into despair as he tries to hang on to the ones he loves while dealing with an evil presence that only shows itself to him.
Now, I love a slow burning descent into self-destructive paranoia and bloodstained madness as much as the next horror fan, but if you’re going to go that route, you have to do it right. That type of plot point usually lends itself well to a film on a shoestring budget like It Lives Inside. Debuting filmmakers Jeff Hall (Writer/Director) and Sean Bingham (Director) had a good script to work with, but the execution of it fell a little short. The oddly unnamed main characters, The Man (Rett Terrell: Army of Frankensteins 2013) and The Woman (Alissa Ford: The Harvesters 2016), had an awkward and non-existent chemistry which made them being a couple difficult to believe.
I don’t know if It Lives Inside was shot in a linear fashion, but it feels like it may have been, due to the fact that, as the film progresses, the acting and believability slightly improve. Once the characters begin to experience turmoil in their relationship, their disdain for each other begins to feel genuine. I’m not saying that these actors are not good at their craft, mind you. I’m simply saying that when they are together, it feels more like they are running lines rather than performing. Rett Terrell carries the movie as he is basically in every scene. He does well with the role of an alpha male archetype who is injured and must adapt to no longer being the primary breadwinner, all while slowly losing control of his world and dealing with an unknown force always just out of sight.
If I had to sum up It Lives Inside in one word, it would have to be “inconsistent.” The film is littered with moments where the viewer is left scratching their head in confusion. In the first act, there is an ongoing theme where a character is mowing the lawn every single time The Man steps outside, no matter what time of day it is. He’s not always visible, but the lawnmower can clearly and deliberately be heard in the background. Then, out of nowhere, this theme is abruptly abandoned.
Rett Terrell’s character also seems to have a serious issue with remaining upright as he is constantly falling. Be it in front of his neighbors house, in the kitchen or in his pile of dirt and weeds masquerading as his precious backyard garden, he just can’t seem to stay on his feet.
Production was suffering with consistency problems of its own as well. Lighting, which is spot on for the most part, is strangely lacking during some nighttime scenes when, inarguably, it is most needed. I don’t know if the main crew had that particular night off and they decided to roll anyway, but there is quite a noticeable difference in comparison to other night scenes.
The special effects were also a roll of the dice. The CGI smoke and shadows representing the evil manifesting is quite well done. It needs to be noted that the CG fully formed demon is honestly better than almost any similar attempt by a big budget Hollywood film out there. I was actually in awe when I saw it. Balance that out with a broken leg gag they created after The Man falls out of a tree, which is clearly an empty pant leg and twisted shoe with the actor’s leg buried up to his knee… I’m fairly sure I caught the cast on his leg disappearing and reappearing between some scenes as well.
I watched It Lives Inside three times in order to completely grasp what Jeff Hall was attempting to get across to the audience. Things that seemed out of place or unexplained during the course of the film are, for the most part, wrapped up at the very end, which is nice, but sadly, by that point they are just an afterthought and mostly forgotten or dismissed. Being able to stop and rewind helped in that process, as some scenes have a bit of plot that passes by so fast, if you blink, you’ll miss it.
Being a film shot on a micro budget, I allowed for a lot of leeway in production value and pacing. If you are willing to do the same, I would say give It Lives Inside a watch, if only to see the fantastic CG creature towards the end. Also, ignore the cover art. Whoever that bleeding-eyed girl is, she’s not in this movie!