Monday, July 30, 2012


As monster baby movies go, Larry Cohen's IT'S ALIVE (1973) has to rank as one of the best of an admittedly very narrowly defined sub-genre of horror films. ROSEMARY'S BABY doesn't really count as a monster baby movie since the baby doesn't arrive until the very end of the film and is never shown on screen. Sure, we all know he's the Son-of-Satan and we can only imagine what he really looks like but the movie ends there.

I think we also have to disqualify THE OMEN (1976). Even though Damian, the anti-Christ is born in the movie, most of the action takes place when he's a child, not an infant. And Regan, the young girl possessed in THE EXORCIST (1973), is also far too old as is the murderous little girl in THE BAD SEED (1956). Creepy kids, yes, but none of them monster babies.

IT'S ALIVE, which I watched for the first time the other day, is one twisted little movie. Not as outright deranged as something directed by David Cronenberg but definitely a bubble off of plumb. The only other Larry Cohen film that I can remember seeing is the wonderful whack job, Q: THE WINGED SERPENT in which Quetzalcoatl is revived and takes up residence atop New York City's Chrysler Building. That film has a weird vibe to it (besides the obvious giant monster on the loose storyline) and the same can be said for IT'S ALIVE.

The concept of a mutated monster baby who comes out of the womb swinging with fangs and claws is so downright ludicrous that in the hands of any other filmmaker the material would be laughed off of the screen. But somehow Cohen makes this claptrap work. It's not a great film by any stretch of the imagination but it is worth seeing. The parents of the monster baby (an unnamed boy, by the way) are played by John Ryan and Sharon Farrell. Ryan is a PR man who gets canned from his job thanks to the murders his monster kid commits and he becomes obsessed with tracking down and killing his child. Paternal instincts ultimately kick in however and he just can't pull the trigger. Maternal instincts are strong in wife Farrell as well but she still goes completely round the bend after the birth of this hideous thing and spends the rest of the film packing her bags for a trip to the loony bin (metaphorically speaking, of course).

The make-up and special effects work by Rick Baker are serviceable. No CGI stuff here. This was the '70s, remember. And the climax of the film pays a nice homage to THEM! (1954), one of my all-time favorite giant monster movies.

The last line of dialogue in the film sets the stage for a sequel and there were two of them: IT LIVES AGAIN and IT'S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE. What, no IT'S ALIVE WALKS AMONG US?

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