“I’ve definitely been very fortunate to have had some of these incredible movies, whatever it may be Go come on The Babadook come on It is like this come on hereditary“Dutta explains In Verse.
it stays inside There was a lot of buzz at SXSW earlier this year, much of it due to the fact that the film is produced by Raymond Mansfield and Sean McKittrick, who produced Jordan Peele’s 2017 breakout horror hit. But it stays inside Nothing is there Go clone. After praising his short film hellDutta met with Mansfield and McKittrick to discuss his idea for a feature, where he was impressed that the two “had their finger on the pulse of this social horror thing.”
“He understood it not as a fad, but as a very, very rich sub-genre of horror,” says Dutta.
So Dutta shared with him his original idea for the film: “An Indian American teen going through a friend’s breakup who unleashes a monster.” that will form the basis it stays insideWhich follows a teenager named Sam (Megan Suri) who rejects her Indian heritage, only to find her former best friend kidnapped by a demon from Hindu mythology called a vampire.
The film received largely positive reviews, and even landed Dutta his next gig: an untitled post-apocalyptic horror film produced by James Wan. Dutta wouldn’t share too many details about his next project, but he praised Wan and his team and Joshua Rollins’ script. “This is one of the best scripts I have ever read. I think it will be as emotional as it is horrifying. So I’m very excited to create this thing and share it with the world,” says Dutta.
In Verse Talked to Dutta about the cultural origins of it stays insideWill he make a sequel, and why does he think this “social horror thing” is here to stay.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Let’s talk about the inspirations behind this it stays inside, You’ve mentioned how it’s inspired by your childhood experience living in India before moving to North America, but it’s also inspired by a story from your grandfather. How are they woven into the film?
I was also drawing on the experiences of family and friends, but I think when I came here, it was a binary world I had to live in. And the strange thing is, I still get asked about the film, whether it is an Indian film or an American film. And my answer is always that it’s both. I realized that the synthesis I was trying to create as a cohesive identity felt bifurcated, especially in high school. It felt like it was a big struggle for a horror movie. And I’d never really seen anything like that before. And I thought if I could do that, I think it would really serve as a journey for the audience, and it would provide this great foundation for a very scary movie.
And then in terms of my grandfather, it’s much more specific. My grandfather used to tell this ghost story of how, as a young man in India, he visited a family friend’s house. The friend had a daughter who had a mason jar that she talked to. One day, he said, “There is nothing in the jar.” And she got angry at him and opened the lid and threw something at him. Of course, nothing comes up, but my grandpa goes home and really strange things start happening. He leaves a packet of peanuts out one day and he turns around and hears it being chewed, and when he looks back, all the peanuts are gone.
This was a great story that I heard growing up. Obviously, after that he took the plunge. he just left. But I started thinking about, well, this is the kind of story that I grew up hearing, most of us grew up hearing, certainly as immigrants. There is a real significance to them, and something that lasts about them as they have been passed down through generations. I wanted to make a kind of horror film that was really based on hearing stories of what you felt when you were a kid.
Of course, we have to talk about the cultural aspect of the demon vampire. How did you connect it with your grandfather’s story?
A lot of it starts with character. I had an idea of Samidha’s character, and I understood where I felt she needed to go in the runtime of the film. And when I was researching who the film’s antagonist would be, I encountered several interesting myths. There’s an incredible untapped well of mythology and demonic mythology, ghostly mythology. But when I found this vampire, I was immediately struck by the fact that it is the embodiment of fear.
It’s a uber boogeyman type of thing, in that it feeds off people’s alienation and anger and loneliness and hatred. It felt like it was the perfect, final opponent for the character I had already created. What I love about horror movies is when you start saying, “Here’s this character, I think the audience will care about this character. I care about this character. What’s the worst force that can befall this character? What is the worst force this character can face?” And so for me from the very beginning, the fight between Sam and this creature was very interesting.
How did you arrive at the design of the vampire? I’m sure he has been portrayed in many different ways throughout history.
Todd Masters, who is an incredible creature designer, he and I worked together and we started with the religious imagery, the artwork, and we said to ourselves, “Okay, so this artwork, this is an interpretation. It is a creative interpretation of what was originally a real thing according to mythology. So we thought, “How can we take these principles, the teeth, the eyes, the overall structure, how can we take that and make it feel like the real world?” We wanted to treat it as realistically as possible. One of the big things for me was designing it to have a malicious appearance. For example, I think some of the earlier designs seemed almost too animalistic.
There was a version where his eyes were slightly higher towards the side of his head. It felt like a fish or something. But we were pushing the design to be the true embodiment of evil. And at the same time, I also got a chance to pay homage to some of my favorite horror movies and especially the practical effects of the 80s. we talk a lot hellraiser, There’s a sequence where the bad guy, Frank, is being reprogrammed by the curse and it’s very sticky, sinister and disgusting. and i thought about it a lot Fly come on pumpkin head come on talk, and there was a real joy for us when we created a practical creature that actually lived in that place and had an artist within it. She’s a skateboarder, she’s very flexible, and she can do all these crazy things. So I think the whole process of building that monster was a dream come true.
What was involved in the decision to make the vampire invisible? Was that part of the cultural roots of Souls, or was that something that was decided for your film?
It’s absolutely part of the cultural mythology. And there’s another component that we haven’t explored much in this movie. It’s interesting how it works that there are certain rules that are right for the movie you’re going for. The invisibility definitely speaks to what makes the creature interesting to me, especially its ability to manipulate people and isolate itself by making you believe in it, while no one else sees it. That it exists. And so it really played into these more psychological components of it. It’s also a shape-shifter in the mythology, which doesn’t really fit into this movie as much as the invisibility element, but I’d definitely love to continue exploring it.
Maybe in some kind of sequel.
One can only hope.
Since the release of Go, there’s been a rise in these social thrillers where the monsters represent some big abstract thing, microaggressions, grief, depression, et cetera. with it stays insideWould you say there is a specific lesson for what a vampire represents?
I wanted it to have that metaphorical quality. I wanted to make it so that if you’re watching the film and you want to engage with it on that level, you can certainly do that, but I also didn’t want it to require reading, and I wanted to make sure that Wanted the film to work in a way. Creature Feature, as in a monster movie, as a physical fight. But then to your point, I think we constantly tried to find ways to make sure there was an alternative reading so you could watch the movie a second time and see more there.
And I think that’s what’s been so incredible about movies like this. Go The point is that they take the conversation beyond the binary world where we talk about racism. And this particular movie is not about Racism with a capital R, but it is about what is coming from within someone. These discomforts that are within us, these insecurities that are within us. I’ve been blessed to make a series of films that are continuing the conversation and moving it beyond that with a capital R that racism is bad. I think because of these films we now have the ability to have more nuanced conversations about race in America.