Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: It’s Alive (1974)
Directed by: Larry Cohen
Written by: Larry Cohen
Cast: John P. Ryan and Sharon Farrell
Genre: Horror, Horror Classics, Monsters
B horror movies are known for many things; terrible or laughable acting, a creative bountiful use of blood and gore, and an artfulness or campiness. Out of all these things B horror movies have one thing in common: A low or nonexistent budget. A lack of funds can doom any movie that is without a creative team behind the scenes making use of what they have. A great example of this is the movie The Evil Dead. Having been made for a mere $375,000, The Evil Dead has become a classic that we as adults will show our children and their children. Having grossed over $29,400,000 as of 2006, this little gem has made more money in its lifetime without the help of a major film company than most bloated box office movies that has been released this summer. The Evil Dead is just one of many examples of what can be done when working with creativity. One movie, far less known than The Evil Dead, is It’s Alive.
It’s Alive embraces what little it has and draws from the imaginative mind of its director, Larry Cohen. The film opens with blackness only to have around thirty flash lights appear. These lights trace back and forth or up and down, giving the impression that a large group of people are desperately searching for something. Mr. Cohen shot this sequence in his basement. Having set up ladders of different heights, he and a friend climbed upon them while turning on the flash lights in the dark on different stages of the ladder. Mr. Cohen then placed several of these shots upon each other in order to give the impression that a number of different people were present and not only two men. This display of artistic thought is found throughout It’s Alive. While certainly not The Evil Dead or earning a The Evil Dead sized revenue, It’s Alive has reached cult classic status that many modern films will never reach. Yes, It’s Alive was backed by Warner Bros. but when you are forced to shoot scenes of your movie in your basement, ask a friend to write music for the film, and cast your friends as characters in that very movie one comes to a clear understanding that the film company that you are working for could care less about you. We should remember that this is the same company that produced the movie Catwoman. It is apparent that their decision making skills have from time to time suffered greatly.
It is not only Mr. Cohan’s imagination that makes this film enjoyable, it is the incredible acting skills of the lead stars. John Ryan and Sharon Farrell play the expectant parents. Seen as a strong but ordinary couple, this man and woman bring a mutant child into the world. Fanged and hungry, the baby begins a killing spree. While a mutant baby killing grown adults seems farfetched, this film is more about how the parents deal with their lose of a normal child and manage to care for the mutant that is their son. The majority of the film focuses on the actions and reactions of the parents. Mr. Ryan plays the father role well. He brings the character from this strong, put together man to a father who realizes this abomination is his son. He smoothly transitions between the two roles and is believable when he realizes he cares about the mutant baby. Sharon Farrell plays a strong woman while still emotionally falling apart. Mrs. Farrell is not the average woman one might see in a horror movie. She does not play the victim or the helpless creature that must rely on a man to save her. While completely devastated by the fact that she gave birth to a monster she has learned to love him as her husband shouts that the child must be destroyed.
While time has not been kind to It’s Alive, the film raises a question that is vital still to this day. The mutation which caused the child to become a monster is revealed to be caused by environmental contaminants. It is odd when one realizes that a horror movie produced during the 1970’s, a time of great excess, would be looking into the future for the sake of the next generation. A horror movie with a message. Who knew?
It’s Alive receives 3 mutant babies out of 5