Horror fans have suffered through a severe case of déjà vu of late. All of the major titles of the 80’s and 90’s slasher cycle have now been either remade or are currently in production. There isn’t a big title remaining. Now it appears anything is fair game. Are we really that desolate of originality in this modern age? Today no cult classic or bomb is safe from being regurgitated back to us in either a theatrical release. Or, more likely, a direct to DVD project. In some cases, I’ve welcomed the occasional re-release, if the new film has something new to offer while remaining true to the source material. I actually liked the Mummy films. They don’t really look anything like the Universal classics, but they were kind of a nice ride, so my sensibilities weren’t all that shaken up. I’m looking forward to the Wolf Man film coming soon from Universal. It appears that the movie will be quite an homage to the original, yet satisfy the more modern needs of today’s filmgoers. But for every film that deserves a second look, there are countless movies that had already played out their string. It’s Alive is one of those.
Larry Cohen ended up with an unexpected cult success on his hands when he delivered the low budget original film back in 1974. He wrote and directed the effort, and it was a pretty good hit. It told the story of an unsuspecting mother who gives birth to a carnivorous mutant with an unending hunger for fresh meat. It was a sweet Halloween treat back then. But Cohen decided to milk that baby for all that he could. In 1978 he churned out It Lives Again and finally in in 1987 he delivered his third and final baby with It’s Alive II: The Island Of The Alive. Each entry scored lower than the last, and finally It was dead. But that’s just not how Hollywood rolls these days.
Cohen is given credit as part of the screenwriting team, but I have my serious doubts that he actually participated much, if at all, in the new release. The story stays basically the same. There’s a mother, this time played by scream queen Bijou Phillips. She again delivers a mutant baby, and the film does its best to amp up the carnage starting with the famous delivery room scene. The movie plods along as Mom begins to realize what she has and starts to protect it and cover up the mess. Dad (Murray) doesn’t have a clue, and this time a handicapped brother to Dad adds a bit to the menace moments.
Now, one of the more legitimate reasons for a remake is to add the technological advancements to a film that didn’t have these kinds of options. That means instead of a puppet, the baby is CG. Sounds great, right? Wrong. This is some of the cheesiest f/x I’ve seen. It looks like this one was made on a SyFy Channel Original budget. I was thoroughly disappointed in the creature effects. The late great Stan Winston and his many followers could have done so much more with a practical creature. Combine all of this with a very weak production value, and I have to recommend you pass on this remake.
It’s Alive is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This is simply a horrible image presentation. It all starts with some of the worse edge enhancement I’ve seen in quite a long time. Black lines dominate the top and bottom edges. The picture lacks any kind of detail or sharpness. It almost looks as if the film was shot through a very dirty lens. Focus is also a problem here. Colors are completely washed away by some kind of light diffusion that looks as if you pegged the brightness control on your monitor. That means very poor contrast and no such color as black to be found anywhere inside the picture frame.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track works well in this dialog driven piece. There are some fine examples of ambient sounds here, but most of the action is front and center. The score is appropriately subtle and low key. While there is nothing exciting at all about this presentation, it fits the mood of the film perfectly.
I have to say that I just don’t understand this at all. The film adds nothing at all to the story or production values. I gotta believe that Cohen’s name is attached only for the paycheck. There’s an old adage that admonishes you not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Too late. Cohen did that by the third sequel. There’s nothing here but dirty bath water. I’m hearing talks of a continuing franchise. “I’m not so sure about that.”