Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Larry Cohen, 1974
Starring: John P. Ryan, Sharon Farrell, James Dixon, William Wellman Jr, Shamus Locke

Frank and Lenore Davis are expecting their second child. Though they were ambivalent at the beginning of the pregnancy, they’re excited to welcome a new Davis baby into the world. Unfortunately, the child is born fanged, clawed, and hideous. When one of the doctors tries to smother the baby, he kills everyone in the operating room except his mother and flees. While the police are harassing the family and searching for the baby, he heads slowly towards home, leaving a trail of corpses in his wake. It seems Lenore was given some prescription drugs that could be responsible for her horrible, mutant offspring, but the rise of toxic pollutants in the environment is another possible factor. The disgusted Frank is actively a member of the search team determined to find the baby and put it out of its misery. But first, the wee Davis finds his way home and wins over his mother, who realizes he just wants love and acceptance. She hides the child in the basement and vows to protect it. Will the baby win Frank over, too? Or will he kill IT?

In all honesty, It’s Alive is a movie I wanted very much to dislike. As a person who hates babies and finds the thought of pregnancy physically revolting, the monster and its victims – the parents – are both totally unsympathetic. In theory, anyway. In reality, the great Larry Cohen has made a wonderful film. He is able to turn the most inane subject matter into fantastic cult cinema in films like Q: The Winged Serpent, The Stuff, Full Moon High, God Told Me To, etc. I can’t help but love It’s Alive. Written, directed, and produced by Cohen, this film has heaps of gore, charm, absurd violence, and a pinch of the magic that made the '70s one of the best cult and horror filmmaking decades.

Banned in several countries, though I have no idea why, It’s Alive does sport some truly gruesome effects and gore, all designed by the wonderful Rick Baker. This is one of those weird films that works despite its flaws and comes highly recommended for any horror or cult fans. The combination of gore-fest and cheesy exploitation should please most horror fans. There are also some solid performances from John P. Ryan (Bound) and Sharon Farrell (Can’t Buy Me Love) as the unhappy parents, and some nice appearances from Cohen regular James Dixon (Q, The Stuff, A Return to Salem’s Lot) and Andrew Duggan (In Like Flint).

I usually prefer to include stills with my reviews, rather than images of the promotional art, but I love this poster. It includes the wonderful tagline (“There’s only one thing wrong with the Davis Baby… IT’S ALIVE”) and has an interesting back story. Apparently when the film was initially released it tanked in the box office. Warner Bros decided to redo the marketing campaign and gave it a scary new poster and then re-released it in theatres almost three years later to much greater acclaim. I wish I could say I'd like to see someone try that now, but instead, everything just gets remade.

Pick it up on a cheapo DVD from Warner or get the trilogy
. You can also find it on Youtube, should you feel the immediate urge. Don't forget to pay attention to the robust score by Bernard Hermann, a regular Hitchcock collaborator. Again, It’s Alive comes highly recommended and is followed by two surprisingly good sequels, It Lives Again (it doesn’t, it’s a different baby… ahem, babies), and It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive. There is apparently also a 2008 remake, though I absolutely refuse to watch it.

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