It's Alive!

"OK"

It's Alive! Review


Meet Frank and Lenore Davies, a loving, healthy, American couple with one son named Chris and a second on his way. This second child, in fact, is on his way right now; as the film opens, Lenore (Sharon Farrell) is going into labor and Frank (John Ryan) is starting the car. The hospital reached, Frank paces the hallway while the doctor tends to Lenore. It's a hard delivery - not least because the infant is an unsightly monster with an impressive set of fully-developed canines and razor-sharp talons to match.. And when Baby slaughters the doctor and nurses, a difficult delivery only gets much worse. The good news is that Frank and Lenore have had a bouncing baby boy. The bad news is It's Alive!

The brainchild of writer/producer/director Larry Cohen, 1974's It's Alive! is a horror film on the cusp of old and new traditions in its genre. What's old-fashioned about it is its classic plotting: The monster escalates his mayhem as the authorities move in on him, the audience meanwhile getting clearer and clearer glimpses of the evil-doer's physical shape until it's revealed in its entirety only near the very end. What's new about it ("new" in the sense that it came after The Exorcist and similarly intense films had prepped audiences for ever more explicit carnage) is its (then) unblinking presentation of gore. Critic Quentin Crisp, who was something of a debauched sophisticate, no doubt intended a measure of irony when he called It's Alive! "the best horror film ever," but the picture has its virtues.

And chief among these is that it's pretty scary stuff. You wouldn't want to confuse what Cohen does for art, but for its genre It's Alive! manages a few neat tricks. Cohen has a knack for derailing the ordinary; while Frank waits for word about Lenore's delivery, for instance, an orderly stumbles out of the examination room and drops to the floor, his neck torn out, and it's Frank's and the audience's first indication that something's gone wrong. Where most fledgling horror directors consign all their scares to the shadows, Cohen also exhibits the common sense to parcel some of his horror out in the daylight. Since a lot of us wouldn't dream of wandering into the pitch black lairs of most movie monsters, the gamble of staging attacks in the bright sunshine usually serves to make the terror seem less avoidable and hence far scarier. (Even Ang Lee's Hulk seemed scary in his daylit scenes.) And he has a related gift for juxtaposing the ghastly and the benign, as when our hungry baby monster launches a raid on - what else? - a milk delivery van.

There are few '70s horror films that are not without their inadvertent humor, though, and It's Alive! has its share of this, too. Maybe it's just me, but the way the bushes rustle while concealing our teeny-weeny, cold-blooded baby monster gets me every time; I always think of the sobbing, shaking trash bag that holds the equally ruthless infant of Basket Case (and I challenge anyone to remember Basket Case without laughing). In an era when Woodward and Bernstein put the press front and center in American life, the reporters in It's Alive! are a marvel of unscrupulous behavior: They not only broadcast the Davies' names, identifying them as the parents of the monster, but actually pose as others to gain access to Lenore's hospital room, where one reporter secretly tapes her. Poor Frank even loses his job over it. He's "too controversial," his boss explains.

Nowadays anyone with a digital camera and a laptop can make a movie, and if they do it's likely to be horror. And even given its occasional silliness and relative creakiness, It's Alive! represents a big improvement on most of these. Expecting mothers are perhaps warned away - they've got enough to worry about, I figure - but horror fans might want to have a look, if not go out of their way. It's Alive! is now available on DVD -- its two campy sequels are bundled together on a single disc that's also available.



It's Alive!

Facts and Figures

Run time: 53 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 30th September 2007

Box Office Worldwide: $15.5M

Budget: $11M

Production compaines: Alive Productions, Amicus Entertainment

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

IMDB: 8.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Lenore Harker, as Frank Davis, Raphaël Coleman as Chris Davis, as Sgt. Perkins, Ty Glaser as Marnie, Jack Ellis as Prof. Baldwin, Arkie Reece as Perry, Oliver Coopersmith as Mike

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