Saturday, October 2, 2021

The Season of Horror Has Risen from the Grave: It's Alive Trilogy

If you are looking for a good time and can appreciate a little silliness with an edge of social commentary, you may want to check out a Larry Cohen flick. I've decided to kick off this year's seasonal horror viewing with the It's Alive trilogy of films, because I am in need of some lighthearted fare.

"Hunting and killing babies doesn't seem to be my specialty."

It's Alive (1974)

The Davis family is happily expecting a second child, after using contraceptives to hold off on conceiving for years, but when Lenore Davis goes into labor, she soon realizes something is not right with her baby. After being alerted by her screams, Frank Davis finds the delivery room littered with the bloody corpses of the medical staff. 

The unusually large newborn with fangs and claws is able to get around quite easily and escapes the hospital, sending police on a mad search for the killer baby. A pharmaceutical company executive suspects the contraceptives Lenore took may be the cause of the mutant baby, and insists it be destroyed to prevent discovery of culpability. 

After murdering a number of hapless victims in the community, the terrorizing tyke eventually finds its way back to the family, where Lenore secretly cares for it with an overabundance of milk and raw meat. 

Daddy Frank discovers the killer babe, and though Lenore insists it won't hurt the family, he shoots and wounds it. It gets away, and Frank joins police on a search through the sewers to destroy his misbehaving offspring. 

When he finds his injured infant son, he realizes it's just a frightened babe that needs protection. Despite his attempts, he is unable to protect his wayward son, and there is news that another mutant child has been born in Seattle. 

"People without children don't realize how lucky they are."

It Lives Again (1978)

Frank Davis has crashed a baby shower to warn parents-to-be, Jody and Eugene Scott, that they are expecting a mutant killer baby like his own, and that authorities are aware and are ready to kill it as soon as it is born. 

He offers to help save their baby by providing a willing doctor and a mobile delivery room. When they are unable to contact him when the time comes, he has to rescue them from the heavily guarded maternity ward at the hospital. 

Their baby is delivered and placed in a home where two other mutant babies are being housed in order to be studied and cared for by doctors. The killer babies inadvertently escape, causing death and destruction, turning the father against his own child when one of the babies attacks him. 

Frank Davis attempts to save the Scott's baby, but things don't turn out well for him when the killer infant is frightened by a night watchman. 

Jody and Eugene decide to act as bait, knowing their baby will eventually return to them, as did the Davis child, agreeing to allow law enforcement to kill it when it shows up. When the baby returns, they have a change of heart, hoping to save it, but are just as unsuccessful as Frank Davis was in protecting his child. 

In the end, Eugene finds himself in Frank's position, attempting to warn other soon-to-be parents about their mutant offspring.

It's Alive III: Island of the Alive (1987)

A mutant baby is born in a cab, attacking the police officer enlisted to help with delivery, who shoots and mortally injures the baby before it kills him and its mother. The baby is found dead the next day in a church where it has dragged itself, leaving a bloody trail to the baptismal font. 

Stephen Jarvis, who is the father of a mutant baby, appears in court to plead for his son's life, arguing that his baby acts aggressively because of the animosity shown to him since birth. He convinces the judge to quarantine his boy and the other mutant infants on a remote island. 

A Cabot executive, maker of the mutant making contraceptives, arrives on the island with a team to destroy evidence that might link their pills to the mutations, but things don't go as planned.

Stephen loses his wife, his job, and is sought out by media to exploit his story. He takes it in stride with a wry sense of humor. Several years later, he is invited to join scientists on a doomed expedition to the island where the mutant children are quarantined. 

Perkins gets stranded and Stephen makes it off the island with a crew of mutants who have begun to reproduce, making Stephen a grandpa. As the bodies of dead crew members rapidly become mutant meals, Stephen's son throws him overboard with a raft to spare him, and he ends up in Cuba, but makes friends who help him back to Florida. 

The genetically challenged kids end up in Florida, sickened and dying, to appeal to Ellen to save her mutant grandchild, and the family reunites at the end. 


This is an entirely entertaining series of films, and it's pretty impressive that Cohen is able to keep the story fresh through three movies. Bernard Herrman's tense musical score maintains an edge of seriousness that helps keep the ludicrous action in check. Part III is the most over the top and gruesome in the series, but is also the most successful in making the mutants sympathetic creatures. Throughout the series, we are allowed to see that the real villains aren't the monstrous progeny, but the pharmaceutical executives who are responsible for their deformities, the police who misunderstand and want to exterminate them, and people in general who mistreat others. The real tragedy is for Lt. Perkins, who has surely run out of sunscreen by now. 

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