It's Alive (1974):

One of the peaks of Larry Cohenís remarkable series of low-budget political allegories, this horror hit reaches back into the womb not as escape hatch from the tensions of society, but as pipeline into its very roots. The title is cribbed from Colin Cliveís primordial cry as Dr. Frankenstein in James Whaleís own fable of fathers and sons, though the beastly progeny here -- clawed, fanged, bulbous-headed -- emerges fully formed as the fruit of a world swimming in its own impurities. Thus, lil' Junior has no sooner entered it than he's conducted a bloody delivery-room massacre, leaving Mom (Sharon Farrell) and Dad (John P. Ryan) aghast in their suburban home, and increasingly shaken in their definitions of what "normal" means. Funny how critics can just drop Cohenís devastating enquiry into the "schlock" bin while hailing the slick, faddish Rosemaryís Baby as a modern classic, but then again who wants to own up to the subversive dimensions of a monster-baby thriller? The premise is lurid, yet, for all the wide-angle money-shots, this is probably Cohenís most controlled film, full of unexpected gravitas, as sensitive to the parentsí agonies as to mutant spawnís own fight for life, milk and gore spilled and evoked via blurry point-of-view shots. Ryan may insist on denying his flesh from his rampaging enfant, but the generations are linked by much more than umbilical cords -- as befits Cohenís use of horror-movie tropes for radicalized examination, the creature manifests nothing less than the accumulated guilt, anxieties and impulses of a nation no longer able to suppress them. (Itís not for nothing that its climactic familial reunion takes place in an underground tunnel -- Cohen's movies are about what has been kept hidden below.) For the two equally fascinating sequels, the director shifts the blunt of his critique even more explicitly from the hideous children to the polluted society thatís whelped them. With James Dixon, William Wellman, Jr., and Michael Ansara.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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