Modern medicine is pretty amazing, but even today there are fears as to how medications and prescription drugs are affecting us on a cellular level. Imagine discovering that the very medication you took had a cataclysmic affect on your unborn child, this is the subject of today’s film, a film that scared me as a kid and has remained unforgettable to me to this day.
Today’s Key Movie:
A couple decide to have a second child after years of taking untested contraceptives only for the child is born mutated and with a thirst for blood. In a cautionary tale about the dangers of using prescription drugs while pregnant, this horror classic stars John P Ryan, Sharon Farrell, Andrew Duggan and Guy Stockwell. So without further delay, let’s talk about It’s Alive.
Why this movie?
I first came into contact with this story via the novelization. At the time my mother ran a small used book store and, ironically, was pregnant with my youngest sister at the time. Having a ravenous desire to read just about anything I could get my hands on (and having only recently discovered a love for horror novels), I snagged the small black paperback book off the shelf and brought it home.
As I read, the images of my baby sister coming home as a horrific monster filled my head. I imagined her coming home with hooks for hands or ripping her way out of my mother (yeah I had a vivid imagination), bringing about some horrible nightmares that kept me from sleeping for some time. My father, not being all that subtle or fully aware of the emotional trauma he was causing, encouraged these horrific images of this monstrous birth by joking that my sister would sneak up and eat us when they brought her home. My mom, of course, would laugh it off and tell him he was being silly, but it wouldn’t be long before he introduced this film to me (along with another called The Brood, which I will discuss at a later date if I can find a copy), knowing the damage was done and, halfway hoping that the ridiculous special effects would make me realize how foolish I was being.
Needless to say, It didn’t work.
You like it, but is it really a ‘good’ movie?
Obviously, this film terrified me as a kid but, as I got older (and learned more about reality), I have come to see this film in a much different light. It is still a frightening and intense film, but it’s place in the horror genre is undeniable.
It’s Alive is very much a film of it’s time with the styles and sensibilities of the mid seventies being very prevalent throughout. From the dated special effects to even the manner of dress, this is not a film that has aged well visually, but from a tonal perspective, it is a whole different matter. Much like the sensationalized disaster films Volcano and Deep Impact, It’s Alive serves as a warning of it’s own. This one cautions of how chemicals could alter our very DNA, it is one that is meant to show the rather extreme dangers that prescription drugs could have on unborn children, even touching on the dangers of a world growing more dependent on chemicals and artificial things.
Writer/Director Larry Cohen knows how to ratchet up the suspense by using creepy sounds, dark lighting and a wonderfully moody soundtrack. The thing that makes this film work is the absence of seeing violent acts and a clear view of the creature for most of the film. Any time there is an attack, we only see the after effects leaving much it to our imagination. This technique only serves to make the film all that much more terrifying as it has been proven that our imaginations are much better than any costume or special effect has ever been. This all changes halfway through the film when we finally see the creature. While the special effects may have held up in the 70’s it is abundantly clear that this is just a puppet or, for some more active shots, a person in a suit. That being said, the creature itself is pretty frightening for a kid of 10 and, seeing that it is of a Rick Baker design, this thing was certainly cutting edge when this film first hit theaters.
The cast is pretty fantastic, with a relatively unknown group of actors who really didn’t gain massive fame, they are all very strong in their roles. From John P Ryan’s wonderful portrayal of the distraught and vengeful father of the creature to Andrew Duggan as the scientist responsible for the contraceptives that may have caused the mutation, everyone nails their roles in every aspect. The one that really stood out to me was the incredible Sharon Farrell as Lenore Davis playing the mother of the mutated child. Through out the film she does a wonderful job slowly slipping into madness as she attempts to protect the child despite it’s vicious appetite. In researching this film I was shocked to learn that, while she appeared in numerous films and series, she never really got a breakout role and was destined to not become the well known actor she certainly deserved being.
All in All, this is a wonderfully dark and fascinating horror film from the mid seventies. While it is certainly dated and could not be made today (even though they tried), it is an important part of our cinema horror history. Featuring some of Rick Baker’s earliest work in special effects, It’s Alive lives on as one of the best of it’s time. Just do me a favor and don’t show this film to your kid if they have a sibling on the way. Not a good idea.
OK, where do I get this movie?
The only way to get this film on disc is via the It’s Alive Trilogy set which will run you around $35. I don’t remember much about the sequels but I have heard that they only get campier from here with the third film ‘Island of the Alive’ actually introducing adult mutants. Otherwise, check out your favorite digital distribution service, that is how I got my copy.
as usual, the original trailer:
Late To The Game 4/2/2020
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!