Director – Larry Cohen
Cast – John P. Ryan, Sharon Farrell, James Dixon, William Wellman Jr., Shamus Locke, Andrew Duggan, Guy Stockwell, Daniel Holzman
Release Year – 1974
Reviewed by John of the Dead
After serving up a trio of black crime flicks to jump start his film career, director Larry Cohen entered the horror realm with his 1974 film It’s Alive. This film took the “killer kid” horror sub-genre to new horizons as it was the first to really give us a truly monstrous child, and one with an appetite for real destruction.
It’s Alive follows Frank(John P. Ryan) and Lenore(Sharon Farrell) Davis, who awaken one night when their unborn child signals to Lenore that he is ready to come out. All is going well at the hospital until the child is born, and all hell breaks loose. Frank runs to the hospital room only to find the numerous doctors delivering the baby dead on the floor, brutally maimed. Frank’s child is loose somewhere in the hospital, but that is not his only worry. The authorities have been notified of what is going on, and are out to put an end to this child’s reign of terror. While Frank cannot fathom that he would father such a child from his own seed, he eventually learns the child is his flesh and blood whether he likes it or not, and a father must protect his child at all costs.
It is often hard to fathom the idea that a PG horror film can be a good watch, but this film manages to give us a lot with its “Parental Guidance” rating. As I mentioned earlier, this film takes the “killer kid” element to a new level, and that comes with the reward of some really sweet cheezy and gory kills at the hands of the Davis’ little devil. At first we don’t actually “see” much of the little guy, and given this film’s budget and film rating I was thinking I was not going to see much of him at all, if any, throughout the film. Thankfully, I was wrong and writer/director Larry Cohen increased the child’s carnage as the film went on.
Story-wise we don’t get anything too too unique, but enough to find some joy in. I am sure more than a couple of couples out there have wondered what they would do if their child came out a deformed abomination, and while the idea is not a new one it is an interesting one nonetheless. My favorite aspect of this story was the character usage of Frank Davis, who was EXPERTLY portrayed by the ever-awesome John P. Ryan. In all honesty, John P. Ryan gives an Oscar performance in this film, and I am not joking. It seems impossible to fathom given this is a cheezy low-budget horror film, but truth is truth and John P. Ryan ruled in this film. I loved how his character was the “do-right” type of man who knew his child was an abomination and was willing to fix the situation by allowing the authorities to rid the world of the beast. As the film went on it seemed that the fact that the child was his child, regardless of manner, and that it was his duty to protect and understand the child, and the ensuing scenes after him realizing that were the best that this film had to offer.
Direction-wise you can expect some utter cheeze from Larry Cohen, but respectable cheeze that shows the guy really does have talent but simply lacks to the funds to make this anything other than a cheezy watch. The fact that this film is a PG watch yet still provides a positive horror watch shows he could get the job done despite this being his first horror film.
Overall, this is a cool watch that I did not enjoy as much as I wanted to but still accomplished much for its low-budget and PG rating. This isn’t a classic, but a watch that Cohen fans should find joy in.