With the Sound of Music?
It’s Alive (1974): 5 out of 10: Larry Cohen is a brilliant idea man. Recently, for example, he is the talent behind both Phone Booth and Cellular. And in the horror department he wrote both the underrated Maniac Cop series and the monster movie classic Q. He is however best known for his its Alive killer baby series. It’s Alive evidences his trademark social commentary and realistic dialog in spades.
Unfortunately, his ’70’s television style direction is also in evidence. On the positive side It’s Alive is a true high concept film where the politics of abortion and the nuclear family intermingle with commentary on everything from environmental threats, uncaring doctors and the tabloid media. Add in a surprisingly literate script and very strong acting from lead John P. Ryan you have the makings of a great 70s social commentary film with bad fashions and 70s kitsch to help the ride immensely.
Unfortunately, It’s Alive is a horror movie and on that front it’s atrocious. Now I understand the bad special effects and cheap scares. But why are the characters constantly in the dark? Were there no light switches in the 70s? In one bizarre scene, the cops are looking for the killer baby in a school at night. They go from room to room with flashlights dying. The principal character Ryan searches his house and basement again at night and in the dark. Turn on the damn lights. There is a switch right there behind you.
The two most effective scares ironically are both during the day (The operating room and the milk truck) in most of the other scenes it is hard to make out who is where and what is going on. The direction is at some points almost obstructionist to the viewer purposely keeping us in the dark (pun intended) to the character’s point of view.
The pacing is also quite leisurely and the last thirty minutes in particular drags badly. A forgettable string musical score from an on his deathbed Bernard Herrmann doesn’t help the cause either.
It’s Alive has both shock and camp and is worth a view. As a treat for children of everything seventies, It’s Alive is a delight. As a horror film, however, it’s a disappointment.