Larry Cohen, 1987
Starring: Michael Moriarty, Karen Black, Laurene Landon, James Dixon
Several years after the events of It’s Alive and It Lives Again, mutant babies have become public knowledge, and are generally exterminated on site. One of the infants’ fathers, Stephen Jarvis, is acting as a witness in a trial where the infants' fate will be decided. A compassionate judge decides that because they are capable of love and compassion, they should be spared. He orders their removal to an isolated, tropical island. Stephen’s life, meanwhile, is not going very well. His ex-wife Ellen doesn’t want anything to do with him, women won’t touch him once they recognize him, and he can’t seem to get a job. Worst of all, a book full of false information is written about his experience and life.
After a few years, Stephen is dragged somewhat against his will to the island to check on the babies. Of course, they are still deformed, mass murdering psychopaths, and they promptly slaughter everyone in the expedition except for Stephen. They want him to take them away from the island, but they all wind up shipwrecked in Cuba, and Stephen is taken captive by Fidel Castro (I wish I was making this up). Stephen escapes and he and the babies find his ex-wife Ellen. For some reason, the mutant children are sick and dying, and they want to pass something precious onto Ellen: a baby of their own.
The make-up and effects are certainly more uneven than in the first two films. The “babies” are now essentially adults wearing rubber suits and though they look a little silly, we don’t see a whole lot of them. The film doesn’t explain why they’ve grown up in only five years. There is a lot more gore, death, and violence in this entry, though so much happens that it feels more spaced out than in the earlier films. It’s Alive III has pretty much everything, including a mutant baby delivery in the back of a New York cab, a courtroom drama, a carnival scene with a prostitute, a punk rock nightclub, a lengthy trip by boat, a tropical island, Cuba, and so much more. It’s dizzying.
There’s a lot more comedy thanks to the great Michael Moriarty, a Larry Cohen regular who also appeared in The Stuff and Q, as well as everything from Law and Order to Pale Rider. Some of the humor is awkward or ill-timed, so if you don’t love Moriarty, this might feel like the weakest entry in the series.
This was shot back-to-back with Return to Salem’s Lot, the sequel to Tobe Hooper’s made-for-TV Salem’s Lot, but does a lot despite its low budget. It’s overwhelmed with action, changes of scenery, and social satire. It runs the gamut from punk-themed nightclub to seaside carnival to Cuba, of all places. I don’t really understand why Cohen felt the need to put references to Cuba and Fidel Castro, but the more the merrier, I guess.
If you liked the first two films, there’s no reason you won’t also love this one. My only major complaint, aside from the fact that simply too much happens, is the presence of Karen Black as Stephen’s ex-wife Ellen. I know Black (Burnt Offerings, Trilogy of Terror) is considered a classic genre actress, but for about half her films, she really gets on my nerves. She has some funny scenes here, namely when she pretends to vomit in a would-be blackmailer’s car and then runs hysterically screaming into her apartment for seemingly no reason. It’s a good thing she has about five minutes of screen time total, though.
It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive is available with the entire trilogy on a two-disc DVD. If you enjoyed the first two films and the work of the wonderful Larry Cohen, you’re definitely going to want to pick this up. It has more comedy and improvisation than either of the first two films, but Michael Moriarty is a delight and it’s nice to see that Cohen made an effort to take the film away from the suburban focus of the first two entries.