It's Alive (1974)

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It's Alive (1974)

Post  BoG on Mon Apr 05, 2010 7:46 pm

I really like the music during the credits, almost a prototypical scary monster movie musical score (by Bernard Herrmann), with that ominous quality, yet nothing subtle about it - kind of a throwback to scary fifties monster cinema. This seems to prep the audience for standard monster scares. Yet, just how typical does this monster film reveal itself to be...?

This one might seem like a conventional monster picture - about a baby mutant - but writer/director Cohen includes some social commentary. The film deals with the themes of alienation, conformity, psychological pressures - of the need by human beings to 'fit in' with the rest of society. The central character is the father (Ryan) of the mutant. The actor plays it very well: he starts out in the film as a typical confident white-collar husband & father; he works for a public relations firm (ironic, no?). In one awful moment - the birth - his world is turned upside down; he is now the outcast, the progenitor of a murderous freak. Now he is embarrassed just to be alive. This is the kind of monster film which I got a little more out of as I got older. One would think that the father is blameless - that such an event is not in his control. But, society blames him nonetheless; I could really relate to the scene with him and his boss - haven't we all had meetings like this before? - not necessarily getting fired or laid off, but those times when your boss has to address a sticky subject with you. Both the boss and the employee are nervous and jittery.
Though such a sci-fi/horror monster picture is tame by today's standards, I recall that it was regarded as quite creepy when first released (according to Wikipedia, it was re-released in 1977 with an effective ad campaign). Cohen sets up the initial hospital sequence well: everything is routine, with the father super-relaxed (this is his 2nd child), even calming another expectant father. Cohen doesn't show what actually happens in the delivery room, just the aftermath. This remains a stunning few moments in sci-fi horror, beginning at that telling moment when the father realizes something is wrong. The concept of a baby capable of such carnage just out of the womb is still very chilling. But, the film takes an even more surprising turn in the 2nd half when we're shown that there does indeed exist unconditional love, that motherhood is a very powerful force in its own right, and there's more here than just a 'monster-on-the-loose.' The main character arc remains the father's, however, as he struggles with his feelings regarding his offspring.
This isn't great - not by any means - but I found much of it to be interesting. Keep in mind, Cohen employed a couple of well-known character actors that have only one-scene roles; Ansara, for example, seems to have been grabbed off the street for his one brief scene, even though he's credited rather high. I also liked the denouement, where it's suggested that such an event was inevitable due to the atomic age or the toxic age, and that such an evolutionary process, rather than being a one-time defect, will have a much bigger impact on all of us than we first realized. Chilling. BoG's Score: 6.5/10

The sequel was IT LIVES AGAIN in 1978 (also known as IT'S ALIVE 2 in some circles), where-in there was more than one mutant baby, and a 2nd sequel in 1987. A REMAKE of this, the first film, was scheduled to be released last year but never surfaced until the DVD came out. It features actress Bijou Phillips as the mother of the mutant baby.

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