Monday, November 5, 2007

It's Alive

I only got introduced to director Larry Cohen last month, with his borderline brilliant film God Told Me To. While that film’s plot was so insane that I was terrified of the thought of trying to write a review for it (*** ½, by the way), I was eager to see more of his work. Thankfully, not only had I unknowingly already ordered a three pack of perhaps his most famous films here, but the films in question show that he is a man who clearly knows what buttons to push with me.

Children, as you may know, tend to be horrid little creatures. They scamper about, destroying everything in their path like tiny little strip miners and contaminating countless otherwise wonderful old movies with their awful attempts at precociousness. Worst of all, because they’re smaller than us and very easily hurt, we’re not supposed to call them on any of their awfulness, even though you all know full well that the only sane choice in this world is to assault them in restaurants when they act up and show them how precarious their continued existences on this planet are. It’s why I’m so theoretically in love with the Evil Child genre, even though it rarely works out well in practice. What a treat, then, to witness the It’s Alive series, and see how these films should be done.

The film starts with a loving couple at a hospital, as the wife begins labor and the husband goes to the waiting room to sit around with his friends and clumsily discuss pollution and how the human race is destroying the planet. Faster than you can say “clumsy foreshadowing”, his wife has given birth to tragedy, as the baby is an evil mutant that kills the entire operating staff and makes its escape. The manhunt is now on, but is hampered by the fact that the mother is desperate to protect her murderous little monster child, even though her husband is much more gung-ho about killing the little demon seed and fixing his genetic mistake.

What I love about Larry Cohen’s movies is just how realistic they are. Not in the sense that I feel an evil mutant baby would come out of the womb and instantly kill a roomful of people, though let’s be honest, it’s gonna happen someday. No, what I like is how he takes an insane horror scenario like this and fills it with what feels like actual real people, not the one-note cardboard idiots that normally populate movies. The parents really do seem to be the sort of people you could expect to meet in real life, though hopefully without carrying the one child with them. The film also has a really nice climax, as the child has been wounded and chased into the sewers, and the massive manhunt draws in its net. While I’m sure there have been better evil child movies made, I cannot for the life of me think of a one. You should definitely check this one out.

Rating: *** ½

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