IT's aliveMOVIE REVIEW
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A SIERRA NEVADA
(MICHAEL MADSEN & JOHN SAVAGE).
In the 1970s, where so many of today's most successful franchises germinated (JAWS, THE EXORCIST, THE OMEN, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, STAR WARS, ALIEN, HALLOWEEN), the major studios were wildly inventive and far from risk averse.
Throughout the 1980s this Risk Everything, Win All approach, slowly gave way to formulaic and tried and true methods that, by the 1990s, flopped so often that they destroyed otherwise successful franchises, and many of the major studios (United Artists, MGM), went bankrupt, were parceled off or sold whole to other interests. Nearly all of the majors except Disney: Columbia Pictures, Universal Pictures, Paramount, and 20th Century Fox (now owned by Disney) have been sold and resold so many times no actual "corporate culture" exists except their Play It Safe default. What few survive today are under whole new owners who continue the bad formula to this day with nothing to show for their efforts but a bean counting bottom line.
That said, the major studios recognize the value in some of their properties that lived long healthy lives on cult recognition.
As of this writing only two of the majors that stayed true to taking cinematic risks, still endure. One of them is Disney, the other one is Warner Bros., franchise owner of Larry Cohen's IT'S ALIVE.
Now the thing about IT'S ALIVE is, it has never come close to the billion dollar mark in ticket sales. All three movies in the franchise combined have never come close to that mark. Not even halfway there.
And yet -
Larry's concept remains so damn hot with - as yet - untapped potential, that WB cannot bring themselves to let it go.
So come with me as I take a look at why.
We begin with a happy family expecting their second child. Well you can count down the minutes before that's all over.
Husband Frank Davis (John P. Ryan: FUTUREWORLD, IT LIVES AGAIN, CITY OF SHADOWS, CLASS OF 1999, STAR TIME, BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM), loving and gentle, dotes on his expectant wife, Lenore (Sharon Farrell: NIGHT OF THE COMET) who has just gone into labor.
This is Lenore's second child, but it's their son, Chris (Daniel Holzman) first experience with a new baby and Frank's moments with his son, as he tries to calm the child's jitters over his Mom, are touching in all the right ways.
With Chris off to stay with his Aunt, Frank and Lenore waste no more time in getting to the hospital. True to the era, Frank waits in a room where other Father's to be are waiting for their wives.
As they smoke like chiminey's the conversation turns to pollution and what are all of these dangerous chemicals doing to our youth? Nothing that Frank wants to hear and he leaves them to wait elsewhere.
Unfortunately, in this small hospital, that means Frank enters ground zero of his newborn's entry into the world. By ground zero I mean everything is going to hell.
A doctor, covered in blood, staggers out of Lenore's birth room, which freaks Frank into all kinds of shit.
Entering the room, he sees blood and dead bodies everywhere, though Lenore is alive.
But where is the baby?
Yeah, we'd best stop right here because this low-budget monster movie is pure Cohen and throughout the course of this flick he pulled out all of the stops.
Don't let the PG rating fool you. Like the PG rated JAWS, IT'S ALIVE is quite the violent gorefest for its era and in a more capable director's hands it could have easily delivered the frights as well as the blood.
That said, I remember the first time I saw it in an arthouse theater, those audience members in front of me were covering their eyes. I felt I'd seen worse in movies like THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and John Carpenter's THE THING, but for them this was their first hardcore horror movie and it apparently delivered.
On the success of IT'S ALIVE, two more sequels came out, unnecessarily wrapping up a movie saga that didn't need one, but there you go.
For the n00bs to Horror movies, and we were all there once, I give IT'S ALIVE Four Shriek Girls.