APRIL 6, 2009
If nothing else, Horror Movie A Day will have given me a new perspective of Larry Cohen. Before HMAD began, I only knew him as the screenwriter of a few suspense films like Phone Booth and Cellular, as well as the director/writer of The Ambulance. I had somehow never seen any of his horror pictures. But It’s Alive II: It Lives Again is like the 6th or 7th movie of his I’ve watched for HMAD - enough to warrant giving him his own tag, especially if I include films he just wrote.
Cohen takes the best approach to a sequel I can imagine. He brings back the hero of the first film (the Frank Davis character) while introducing a new couple on the verge of having their own monster baby. So if you liked Davis, you get to see him do something new (he now works for a company that aims to help - or so they claim - those who are about to have a mutant child), and if you just liked the idea of a couple having a monster baby, you get that too. It’s familiar and yet different in nearly perfectly equal helpings (Davis kind of disappears for most of the 2nd act). It may not be a perfect movie, but in terms of successfully “following” the first film, it’s definitely one of the better examples I can think of in the horror genre.
The only real flaw in the movie is that they keep the monster baby action mostly confined to the final half hour. Sure, there’s a lot of plot to explain what with the various groups with an interest in the new baby, but still. You can’t promise monster babies and give us a bunch of middle aged doughy guys in labcoats rambling about creation and the future of evolution and such. Once the babies escape though, oh man. Awesome.
The highlight of their all-too-brief rampage has to be a kid’s birthday party. Not only are the kids all terrible actors with awkward dialogue (“Open mine first!” one kid shouts, after another gift has been opened), but they just come and go out of nowhere. And the babies don’t really attack anyone, but they do destroy a cake. It’s just such a random little scene that could have so easily been cut, I couldn’t help but love it a little.
I also love how easily the parents accept that their kid is a monster. Davis crashes their baby shower (!!) and is like “You remember seeing the news about how I had a monster baby? You’re going to have one too.” And they accept this without even double-checking the news article to see if it was the same guy. Even better, the mother starts calling the fetus “It” before Davis has even cleared the driveway. So many of these killer kid movies have parents that are on the “I don’t care what it’s done, it’s MY child!” train, it’s refreshing to see some folks that are like “oh it’s a monster, fuck it”.
Rick Baker did the effects for the babies. They are obviously better than the original’s, but still used sparingly to hide their limits. I am excited to watch the 3rd film - not only does it have Michael Moriarty, but I assume that the late 80s effects will be pretty awesome to watch. I also assume the remake, which has seemingly been cast into the ether (it was shot in 2007), will have lame ass CGI babies.
As always, Cohen provides a dull commentary that is only occasionally referring to what’s on screen, even in general terms. If you take a shot of whiskey every time he mentions one of his other “pictures” (the words “film” and “movie” are apparently not in his vocabulary), you will likely die of cirrhosis before the first reel is up. However, if you don’t die and merely become violently ill from the alcohol intake, you can take a few trips to the bathroom and probably not miss much, as he is also prone to long silences. The “trailer” is also included, but it’s really a teaser, featuring no footage whatsoever. It DOES, however, include a tagline that out-sillies the one for Q - “The It’s Alive baby is back again, only now there’s three of them.” Confusing grammar + awkward syntax = voiceover nirvana.
What say you?