Larry Cohen, 1978
Starring: John P. Ryan, Frederic Forrest, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Eddie Constantine, Andrew Dugan
Emboldened by the success of It’s Alive, director, writer, and producer Larry Cohen (The Stuff) decided to throw plot out on a limb, add a few more mutant killer babies, and hope fans would hang on for the ride. Again, color me surprised that I liked this film so much. When I saw the first one, I had my doubts — it seemed implausible that I would be able to enjoy a film about a killer mutant baby and its parents’ struggle to love and accept it — but I love the first movie. I was sure I'd hate or be completely bored by the sequel. Though it's certainly more ridiculous than the first, three times the killer babies means three times the gore and three times the fun.
Again written, produced, and directed by Cohen, It’s Alive’s John Ryan returns as Frank Davis soon after the events of the first film, this time as an activist seeking out families who are likely to give birth to mutant babies. He wants to help them deliver their babies away from the prying eyes of police, scientists, and the pharmaceutical companies, in order to give them a chance to get to know their unfortunately deformed offspring. The couples in question are taken to a private, secured facility full of scientists trying to study and help the babies, but obviously putting a bunch of mutant killer babies with razor sharp claws together might be a poor choice. They react the least violently towards parents of the babies, but eventually they escape and cause a serious amount of mayhem.
It Lives Again really must be seen to be believed. I don’t want to give away too much with my review, but part of the fun is watching what unfolds without knowing what to expect. Larry Cohen may be something of an acquired taste, but his films are nearly always delightful — It Lives Again is no exception. I saw this in a theatre as part of a horror festival (Exhumed Films' annual 24-hour Halloween horror fest) and I recommend watching it with a group of like-minded horror and exploitation fanatics if you can. Like most of Cohen's films, it's great fun if you're in the right mindset and has a nice mix of horror, gore, humor, and relatively compelling, sympathetic characters.
Sure, this is a sequel to a movie about killer babies, which means the audience is probably limited. It does unfortunately rehash some of the same themes from the first film, but if you can suspend your disbelief and remember that you're watching a Larry Cohen film in the first place, everything should be fine. It Lives Again does also introduce some fresh new scares and moments of killer baby action, so don’t assume it is just a repeat of the first film.
The acting is about on par with the first, which is to say that it's similar to any '70s horror-exploitation film. Frank Davis returns, looking more aged and haggard than in the first film. There are some great appearances from Cassavetes’ regular John Marley (Faces, Deathdream), Andrew Dugan (In Like Flint), and Eddie Constantine (Alphaville, The Long Good Friday). The new parents are played sympathetically by Kathleen Lloyd (The Car) and the awkward Frederic Forrest (Apocalypse Now). The effects are easily as good as the first film and It Lives Again was also scored by the great Bernard Hermann (Hitchcock's regular composer for a time).
As far as I know this is only available on the two disc trilogy DVD, which comes with It’s Alive, It Lives Again, and It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive. And thanks to the power of the internet, you can also watch it right now on youtube. As with It’s Alive, the second film comes highly recommended. Both of these remind me a little of ‘80s horror, several years before similarly comic and grotesque creature features like C.H.U.D. or Basket Case.