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Classic Horror > It's Alive (Larry Cohen)

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message 1: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Feb 14, 2010 08:23AM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 226 comments This is part of my Bernard Herrman series; I'm attempting to watch every film scored by the maestro! It's amazing that his music can be heard in CITIZEN KANE, many Hitchcock classic, to low budget (but fun) films like this!

IT'S ALIVE (Larry Cohen 1973, USA) Frank Davis fathers a genetic mutation whose killer instincts lead it directly from the cradle to the grave. As the creature’s creator Frank feels akin to Dr. Frankenstein and carries the moral obligation of stopping the gruesome deaths, knowing he must be the one to destroy the beast to find his own salvation and, more importantly, be accepted back into mainstream society. Director Larry Cohen appeals to the pregnant fear that gestates deep within our social consciousness: modern apprehensions concerning prescription drugs and pollution, their effects upon developing fetus’ and even a woman’s right to choose. Cohen also dissects the nuclear family unit, as the Patriarch commits infanticide, the one who carries the responsibility of creating this monster (or thinks he does), while the wife is relegated to the periphery of the story. Cohen focuses upon Frank’s emotional isolation and keeps the wife drugged and restrained: the man can handle the problem while the woman is unable to cope with the stress.

Cohen upsets the typical cinematic convention of “pregnant-mom-rushed-to-hospital” by allowing the first act to move slowly: the man isn’t a bumbling idiot and they talk and take their time, dully arriving at their destination. As Frank awaits the introduction of his second child, Cohen offers exposition spiked with humor through dialogue and a running gag in the waiting room. He crosscuts these scenes with a bored doctor who practically berates the lost Lenore (a Poe allusion?) and demands she push harder. He then cuts back to Frank and the other fathers before showing a nurse stumble through the doors and collapse in a bloody heap. Frank then bursts into the delivery room and we see a frightful apocalypse: the medical staff has been mutilated and Lenore is screaming about her baby. The scene is over-the-top and borders on camp, the blood looks like congealed Jell-O, but the actors bring it back down to Earth.

Bernard Herrmann’s score relies on innuendo and subtly to underline the horror, and seeps into the narrative with a time-released precision. Cohen uses point-of-view double exposure to show the world from the monster child’s perspective, utilizing low angle and quick editing techniques. He smartly refuses to show the creature in a full medium shot, only offering glimpses and extreme close-ups of the Rick Baker puppet…which is for the best because it looks rather silly.

Eventually, Frank must take control and hunt down his progeny, and armed with a police rifle he stalks the sewers in search of the newborn. But seen through a father’s eyes the killer becomes nothing more than a scared and hungry baby, and he takes it in a blanket to comfort. This would have been the interesting and complex ending; instead, Cohen goes for the visceral thrill and static declaration…another has been born in Seattle. Final Grade: (C)

message 2: by Alex DeLarge (new)

Alex DeLarge | 226 comments Q: THE WINGED SERPENT is rising slowly to the top of my queue. It looks absurdly enjoyable.

message 3: by Alex DeLarge (last edited Feb 15, 2010 07:26PM) (new)

Alex DeLarge | 226 comments I reviewed GOD TOLD ME TO and thought it enjoyable but, like IT'S ALIVE, not a very good film. But not a very bad one either. I'll bump Q up since I'm in a horror film mode lately.

message 4: by Phillip (new)

Phillip i've never seen Q: ... thanks for mentioning it fellahs!

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