Despite my relationship with the poster...despite my having a horror blog...despite the fact that it's been around for decades, I'd never seen this 1974 film before last night. Wow, Film Clubbers! Today I feel so much closer to It's Alive- and to you.
But! Do I mean "closer" in a good way? I'll spare you the suspense: yes. Yes, I do. In fact, I liked It's Alive far more than I probably should have. As I watched it, my brain was in this marvelous state: you know the one- the one that makes things which are not profound whatsoever seem totally profound. It's that same place your 7th-grade mind went, when you totally got all the deep meaning in songs by, like, Nena and to prove your connection to that which actually means nothing at all, you would write the lyrics all over your math book cover.
Or maybe that's just me. Regardless, consider this post my math book cover; I'm not sure what was happening in my brain place, but last night I was all "Wow, It's Alive isn't just a horror movie about a homicidal mutant baby, it's an indictment on the modern family! Or is it? It is! And it's an indictment of the pharmaceutical manufacturing industries! Wow." In the cold light of the day after, I don't know how right I was. What I do know for sure is that I enjoyed the hell out of It's Alive and I only feel a little bit wrong about it.
The film begins as Lenore Davis (Sharon Farrell) goes into labor with her second child. Her husband Frank (John P. Ryan) drives her to the hospital and waits alongside other men who are about to become fathers. In the delivery room, Lenore begins to have some difficulty. Her first child popped out in under an hour, and it didn't feel like...this! The doctor assures her that everything is fine- well, save that the baby must be an 11-pounder.
At this point, I would like to take a time out to mention that nothing that weighs 11 pounds should ever come out of a vagina, ever. EVER.
I'm sure plenty of you out there have children, and perhaps some of those children were that large at birth. Maybe- just maybe- you were a child once yourself, and when you came out of your mom's vagina you weighed that much. I just...the whole childbirth thing is beyond me. I mean, I get it; I understand the concepts and all that, but the mechanics of birthing? They make no sense to me. At all. I will summarize it thusly: there are limits. Let it suffice to say, I was sympathizing somethin' awful with Mrs. Davis.
When it finally emerges, the baby lays waste to everyone in the room save his mama. Doctors and nurse lay scattered about, their throats torn open. Baby, thou art loosed!
As the Davises deal with the repercussions of bringing a homicidal mutant baby into the world- you know, stuff like job loss, nosy nurses looking to cop a scoop, reporters at every turn- said baby gets his nom-nom on. As mutant baby-cam shows, perhaps the poor young thing is cranky because he needs glasses. Bad eyesight can lead to headaches, which can lead to irritation.
That woman, by the way? The one who's about to be a victim? She had on the most fabulous white go-go boots you could ever hope to see. I am just saying.
The police want to kill the baby before it completely decimates the city of Santa Monica. Frank is fine with that; in fact, he continually stresses that the baby isn't really his- not in a my wife obviously had an affair with Xtro kind of way, but rather in a I refuse to believe
The medical community, on the other hand, wants to capture the baby alive in order to study it and attempt to figure out why it's so mean and gross.
So, the baby does his thing (he kills people), everyone tries to find it, and Lenore kind of loses her shit. When the baby makes his way home, Frank shoots it up but good. Well, not good dead, but good enough so that junior leaves a trail of blood during his escape. Everyone tracks it down, and Frank has a change of heart. He realizes that even though his son is a hideous, homicidal freak of nature, it's still his son. But it's too late! There's no happy ending for the Davises. I mean, there kind of is because they no longer have to worry about raising a mutant...but it's still sad.
Somehow, It's Alive isn't quite as schlocky as you'd think a movie about a ridiculous-looking mutant monster baby would be. Writer/director Larry Cohen wisely keeps the child in the shadows, only giving us a glimpse here and there of a giant fang, a giant eye, giant claws, or a giant forehead. It's pretty hokey, sure, but too much would have made this movie an all-out laugh riot. The effects are all low-budget, in fact. Earlier I said "throats ripped out" when describing the hospital room massacre; well, the reality is not nearly as gruesome- some blood shows up on some necks and that's about it.
Is it scary? Theoretically, sure. In actuality...not so much. Truth be told, there's not that much action here. The baby hangs out in dark corners, we get some mutant-cam, someone dies. The majority of the film focuses on the Davises- how they're coping or not coping, etc. It's more their story than a monster movie, really. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but nor is it what you might expect.
As for my late-night philosophizing and all that, well, I suppose maybe you could look at It's Alive as a prime example of societal attitudes in the post-1960s, as the Leave It to Beaver-style notions of the ideal family became antiquated. The "me" generation was about to take hold, and white picket fences were no longer the be all, end all. Maybe Cohen is examining changing attitudes about families in the film...or maybe I'm just reading way too much into the fact that Frank makes an off-the-cuff comment about how lucky single people are and the baby kills a milkman. Eh. I like finding depth where perhaps there is none. Otherwise, It's Alive is just a movie about a killer mutant baby and-- wait, that's awesome enough.
Film Club Coolies, Y'all!
Banned in Queensland
From Midnight, With Love
The House of Sparrows
Pussy Goes Grrr
The Verdant Dude