It's Alive (2009)
Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring Bijou Philips, Skye Bennett, Raphaël Coleman, Sigal Diamant, Jack Ellis
Directed by Josef Rusnak
Coming to DVD this October is Josef Rusnak’s unnecessary, yet entertaining, reimagining of Larry Cohen’s 1974 cult classic It’s Alive. Is it worth tracking down, or is the disc better used as a coaster? Read on...
For those bereft of knowledge of the original, both movies follow a couple as they prepare for the birth of their new child.
Unfortunately, the kid turns out to be a murderous creature that kills when scared - but this being a reimagining, the comparison pretty much ends there. While the original had the child, split from his parents, wreaking bloody havoc, here we have Bijou Philips (Venom, Hostel: Part II) as Lenore, forced into the role of the terrified mother facing mental ruin as she attempts to hide the beastly nature of her new bundle of joy.
When the baby grows much faster than normal, a C-section is necessary and Philips awakens to learn that the entire surgical team have been butchered in the room. While the police attempt to investigate, our loving parents take their baby, Daniel, home. Gradually, Philips discovers dead animals around the house and finds Daniel chowing down on a decapitated bird. From there, things go from bad to worse as humans become the target and Lenore’s grip on sanity becomes frayed from hiding all the bodies....
Bijou Philips is undoubtedly the star here, jumping into her role in what is admittedly just a piece of schlock cinema with great aplomb. Part of this, unfortunately, is also because her character is the only one in the entire film that is really given any depth. Once the killing starts in earnest, her boyfriend (James Murray) pretty much disappears from most of the film only to show up again at the end ready to go toe-to-toe with the monstrous little nipper. Lenore’s regret at the baby causing her to abandon her burgeoning academic success, and realization that an attempted abortion may be the cause of Daniels “condition” are brought across very well by Philips, and her eventual deterioration is also involving and helps raise It’s Alive slightly above bargain-bin fare. It’s just a pity that almost all of the other players are relegated to one-dimensional fodder for the terrible tyke. The character of Frank’s disabled brother (who lives with the couple) could even be removed completely and make no difference to the proceedings.
In a different approach from the original, young Daniel actually looks like a normal human baby most of the time, with his monstrous visage being saved for the final scenes. When attacking, he’s represented mainly by surprisingly decent CGI. I guess I shouldn’t really say “attacking” here....more like “completely fucking annihilating”. This crazy little bastard goes absolutely apeshit when provoked (or even not), making the kill scenes incredibly bloody. The murder of the surgical team leaves the room entirely coated in gore, as does another kill inside a car. The best gore shot of the movie sees Daniel’s little monster-fist punching its way out of the face of a mutilated victim. When this kid goes to town, he paints it red.
Techs in It’s Alive are professional throughout, in line with the usual quality of better straight-to-DVD fare. Nothing particularly stands out, but nothing is noticeably poor either. The creature design is actually pretty cool, and a few effective scenes can be found, such as Frank capturing Daniel in a metal bin, preparing to kill him while the baby growls before eventually sobbing like a human baby – causing the father’s paternal instincts to take over.
Inevitably, comparisons will obviously begin to emerge with Paul Solet’s superior Grace. In fact, this could almost be compared to a mindless popcorn version of Solet’s more cerebral approach. Don’t go into It’s Alive expecting a genuinely good movie (let’s face it, neither was the original), but do expect to be entertained. There are a few points where you’ll laugh, but despite this I realised I wasn’t laughing at the movie but simply because watching a mini teeth ‘n’ claws terror rip through the cast was actually fun. Isn’t that enough?
3 out of 5
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