By: John Allen
Horror, Thriller / Runtime: 90 minutes.
I have been lucky enough to have written a few scripts in my time, even lucky enough to have had them produced, and even luckier still to have had them well received by audiences and critics alike. So my point is I do know a little bit about writing stories, and what works and what does not.
The first thing you need, obviously, is the story itself. I am certain that every movie I will review is going to have at least that. It is up to the writer to make that story compelling for us. Which brings me to the second thing you need, or rather need to do, and that is tell us who the characters are, and what their relationship is, you the author may know, but I the viewer do not. You have to tell me. So begins “It Lives Inside“, the prologue takes place in the past, no words are spoken, but we can tell we are watching a Blacksmith at work, so we know something about this person already. He is an old timey Blacksmith. The next thing we know, an entity, or unknown force crawls up his nose and possesses him forcing him to go on a killing spree, effectively wiping out his commune of fellow pioneers. Groovy.
Loving the prologue; I settle in knowing the production values are not big budget, but they gave me a cool special effect and I think its going to be alright because the stage has been set very nicely. Present day, nice camera pan from the sky to the rooftop of houses, to the backyard, with a body lying in it. Intriguing.
Body gets up, not a crusty zombie, okay, what is this guys deal? Who is he? Lets find out. He wanders into the house, takes a shower. A woman shows up in the bathroom. Asks “Did it happen again?” wait a second. Who is she? I am still waiting to find out who he is. No names given, no relationship established, just “Did it happen again?” Did WHAT happen again? I, the viewer need this vital information. Who are these people? What is their relationship? And did what happen again? Does our intrepid nameless hero like to sleep in a mound of dirt on the regular? Is he a Somnambulist? Is he her brother, husband, or part time lover? You get the idea, in order to compel the viewer to your story, these things have to occur, and rather quickly so as not to leave distracting questions. Hollywood makes these mistakes too. One need only look at the pilot episode of Friends. I scratched my head, having re-watched it recently, wondering how it ever became a hit show. Not once was a name mentioned in the first part, nor relationships established, just some annoying Gen X’s shooting the breeze about not a heck of a lot.
What is even worse is we never know the names of the main characters in It Lives Inside, the post credits are just Man, Woman, etc which I could accept if there was a reasonable point for it, except some supporting characters have names and the leads don’t? There is nothing artistic or has any merit with this choice. Again in horror movies especially, the audience must be drawn in, we like to shout out character names and relate to them. For example in the Spanish horror flick Veronica (give it a watch) we know who everybody is very quickly, and their personalities show immediately. I will never forget the youngest character Veronica’s little brother Antonito because this spunky five year old was chill. Nothing fazed him. He accepted everything happening around him like a boss. I even quipped to my pal “I love Antonito, zero F***s given!” You see my point? The characters drew us into the story making Veronica compelling to watch.
When writing your script, a slow burn is fine, if at the end of each chapter there is a progression in the story or some other piece of vital information that we, the audience, need. It takes just a bit too long for writer/director Jeff Hall to deliver this to us. Now, I don’t want Mr. Hall thinking I hated his work, I didn’t. He does write some good, and relatable moments. The movement out of the corner of our eye in the dark, conflict with the neighbor over their dog, mouse hunting (as a recent stalker of small game myself, boy can I relate) even the slow decent into abnormal behavior is well thought out.
The setting itself, a young couple, starter home, not a wealthy area is perfect, certainly not glamourized in any way. The basic bones and structure of the story are favorable. No, the take away from this review is never stop critiquing your work, if it feels like its good enough, it isn’t, keep working on it until it is an A+.
Where Jeff Hall does succeed is in the direction of some of the scenes in It Lives Inside, particularly when one of the characters is struck by a truck at night, the quick cuts, close ups, and angles all work really well, and the long shot of the victim staggering back home is wonderful. In fact the final moments of the movie are excellent. The special effects, considering the budget are actually quite commendable. The original music is enjoyable. I loved the post credit song.
I feel that It Lives Inside has a lot of potential and could make a ripping big screen, big budget, big studio horror movie with some tweaking and re-writes. Please good Sir, take a red pen to your work, leave the prologue and third act alone, but fix the in-between because while the present form is not first rate, you are on to something.
2.5 out of 5
It Lives Inside stars Rett Terrell (The Jurassic Games) and Alissa Rose Ford (Army of Frankensteins) in a Jeff Hall film, released August 7 on VOD and September 4 on DVD.