It’s Alive (1974)
By Kurly Tlapoyawa
Directed by Larry Cohen
I owe a great deal of my love for horror films to my older cousin, Lucille. You see, back in the mid-’80s, my trusty cousin was lucky enough to have that magical device that opened up our mundane lives to the twisted imaginations of men like Herschell Gordon Lewis, George Romero and Tobey Hooper. Of course, I’m talking about old-school cable.
Every time we hung out, she would regale me with all the bloody details of the numerous horror films she saw on late-night cable. Most of the time, the descriptions alone were enough to give me nightmares. So whenever the opportunity for a sleepover presented itself, I knew I would be in for a night of full-tilt terror. One of my fondest memories of these popcorn-and-Pepsi-fueled all-nighters is when we stayed up way too late to watch It’s Alive. I had nightmares for a week.
Unfortunately, I was barely born when this masterpiece of trash hit the drive-in, so I missed out on the prime viewing environment for a flick like this. But I more than made up for it through repeated viewings on HBO and Showtime (back when HBO and Showtime actually showed good movies) via stolen cable in Kansas. Written, produced and directed by the insanely talented Larry Cohen (Black Ceasar, Q and The Stuff), It’s Alive is everything a horror flick from the ’70s should be. It’s Alive posits that since we live in a world so polluted and poisoned with the excesses of our technological advancments, it is inevitable that our complete disregard for this planet will eventually come back to bite us right in the nuts. And, boy, does it!
The film opens with a young couple eagerly awaiting the arrival of their next child. But when they get to the hospital, we know things are going to take a turn for the worse. “This one feels different ... ” mama Lenore says, casually giving us a sign of things to come. While papa Frank is hanging out in the waiting room with the other expectant fathers, a doctor runs out of the delivery room clutching his throat and collapses like a bloody pile of meat. Frank rushes into the delivery room and finds that a brutal massacre has taken place, the mangled bodies of doctors and nurses litter the room and Lenore lies weeping, “What does my baby look like!? What’s wrong with my baby?” Seems junior is a maniacal little mutant caused by Lenore’s exposure to the toxic sludge that invades our lungs and permeates our pores on a daily basis, delivering a message that takes us back to the atomic scare films of the ’50s. After discovering a broken window in the delivery room, the cops are soon on the case, tracking our hateful little hell-spawn through the city as he leaves a trail of carnage behind.
The acting is top-notch and suits the tone and era of the film perfectly. Especially refreshing is how quickly the cops accept that a mutant baby is on a killing spree and set out to bring the little fucker down. Remember when mainstream horror movies actually had balls? I sure do. It was called the ’70s. And, brother, is this flick a fine reminder of that bygone era of exploitation and sleaze. To top it all off, the special effects and gore come to us via the capable hands of legendary gore-master Rick Baker, who did a hell of a job in crafting the infant monster.
The DVD gives us a gorgeous print of the film in widescreen, along with great commentary by Cohen himself. As a bonus, we get trailers to the two sequels It Lives Again and Island of the Alive. I would have liked a few more extras, but it’s still a solid package. This Halloween, stop messing up the earth with our waste and slap in a truly great treasure from the ’70s, because I don’t know nothing about birthin’ no mutant babies! (Warner Home Video, $12.98)
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