It’s Alive

It’s Alive

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The proudly independent Larry Cohen finally struck it rich in the mainstream with this unnerving tale of a monstrous baby that puts a novel twist on the concept of being brought into the world kicking and screaming. As the marketing campaign for the film declared, the only thing wrong with Frank and Lenore Davies’s second child is that it’s alive, and, after being received with horror by the rest of the world, it does not hesitate to defend that life to the utmost. One part allegory on familial tensions and one part commentary on environmental and biological poisoning, It’s Alive is a multi-layered work that is at the same time starkly clear and chillingly precise in its observations. Cohen’s reference to James Whale’s Frankenstein in titling his film is not only a cheeky in-joke but a realization of the fundamental theme underlying both works, the primeval gore of birth anxiety coupled with the notion of culpability in creating, or of evidencing some compromising relationship with, abnormality. Ultimately, however, the disquieting aspects of It’s Alive are to be found in Cohen’s very blurring of the lines between what is normal and what is not and what it is to love a child unconditionally. By turns frightening and heartbreaking, an aspect particularly reflected in John P. Ryan’s tormented performance as the baby’s father, the film is not only perhaps one of Cohen’s best films but one of the finest American horror films of the last 30 years.

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DVD
Distributor
Warner Bros.
Runtime
91 min
Rating
PG
Year
1974
Director
Larry Cohen
Screenwriter
Larry Cohen
Cast
John P. Ryan, Sharon Farrell, James Dixon, William Wellman Jr., Shamus Lock, Andrew Duggan, Daniel Holzman