April 2, 2009
Larry Cohen, Paul Sopocy
Bijou Phillips as Lenore Harker
James Murray as Frank David
Raphael Coleman as Chris Davis
Owen Teale as Sgt. Perkins
Synopsis of It’s Alive
A girl gets pregnant by her boyfriend. She is living in a college dorm with a mate. Ideas of abortion start burgeoning in her mind and her mate encourages her to abort. Her boyfriend, played by James Murray, is a well established engineer living in a remote chalet on the outskirts of the city. The place already feels creepy. Suddenly the girl changes her mind and the film haves us believe the decision came from the unborn infant. The mother, played by Bijou Philips, moves in with her boyfriend and prepares for the arrival of the baby.
The couple gets married, and the husband’s little brother lives with them in the remote chalet… a sort of wooden structure… inspiring retreat… a retreat of devotion of self inflicted home arrest or self inflicted death, at least for the baby and his mother.
The little one is in a hurry to come out and join his parents in this little personalized paradise. So she delivers three months early by caesarean. But the baby is a bit hungry, and somehow manages to kill and eat the delivery crew. The police come, and no one ever imagines possibility that the baby is the little timid monster who perpetrated this repulsive slaughter.
It is only months later when the birds, the cats, and the rats start disappearing that the mother realizes her baby’s special gourmet. The killing spree continues to include human beings, a curious psychiatric doctor and then the mother’s visiting friends. Miraculously the young uncle is spared from his little nephew’s hunger for human flesh or for any flesh but apparently not that of his own siblings and parents. The mother hides the remains of the victims or disposes of them when she discovers what’s happened. Remarkably enough she does so, although with great revulsion and disgust. Later the father will realize this as a policeman comes to the house and is killed. The father tries to stop and kill the baby while the mother sits in the baby’s room hearing the ominous masquerade.
After a while she goes outside looking for the baby. She runs behind her husband who is running behind his son or his abominable sin. He catches the baby, pulls the pistol and aims at his own fate. The baby stops the horrible groaning and resumes an angelical baby crying. Yes, the little one can shift from the monster mode to the baby mode. The father can’t pull the trigger. Suddenly, shooting the baby proves to be even more gruesome than what’s going on. Roles are reversed and the father is knocked down by the baby who retreats to a tree and resumes baby mode again. Full of mercy and love, the mother finds the crying baby, holds it, and retreats to the house, to the sanctuary of the monster, or to the cradle/ tomb.
The house is on fire but she enters nonetheless, confidently and surely heading to the baby’s cradle. She sits there in the rocking chair holding the baby and waiting for the fire to erupt and consume them all together. But they did not simply die, they were just consumed by something stronger than her love, stronger than then the baby’s a hideous desire for flesh. Meanwhile, a hugely affectionate father and husband stands motionless outside the structure beside his brother, who is half crippled, watching the house burn. No one tries to save them; it just seems wrongfully right to let them be consumed by the fire.
Me and Horror Movies
I saw this movie during the Mother Day 2009 commemorations in the Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi. I have exhausted the horror movie genre, from zombies, to giant monsters, to vampires, to the werewolves. Yes, they were all fun to watch. A tremendous surge of adrenaline always occurred. They hardly miss the point of entertaining viewers. I did not watch I Know What You Did Last Summer or Friday the 13th for instructive moral entertainment. In fact, I always felt that movies and storytelling in general should not instruct. They should simply entertain. It is sometimes good to write, produce or watch a meaningful horror movie that is not totally instructive or message-driven. I expect most movie goers to agree that Friday the 13th is way too meaningless and unnecessarily loaded with horrible murders. Nevertheless, the adrenaline is massively worked.
I recently decided never to watch horror movies of any sort at all. I don’t remember why I selectedIt’s Alive among so many other options. Perhaps I did not realize that it was a horror movie. Anyhow the choice proved to be rewarding. It was the first time I really enjoyed watching a horror movie, the first time I watched one with a moral message and a deep meaning. I did not see the other versions by writer and director Larry Cohan. The remake I watched was directed by Josef Rusnak and it was awesome in the following sense.
I think that this movie is a true celebration of motherhood. The movie transcends the habitual scary movie cries and adrenaline excitement to something scarier than that: the fear of losing our own moms, or the fear of not loving them enough. In this movie fear is twofold, one apparent (the child cannibal), and one hidden (the possible motherhood resignation). The underlying emotional message is that a mother’s affection for her children is invaluable, immeasurable, and immense. There is just no equal to a mother’s love and devotion to her child. She did not give up on her little monster until the end. The moral message is love your mom back. Remember your mom, every hour, every day, every night, and every morning.
Few are the viewers who will focus on the mother. There lies the real conflict of this movie. The real plot is not the child and his little murders. The climax is not the moment when he will be stopped. The real conflict takes place in the mother’s heart and soul. A true dilemma. The real plot is whether she will report her baby to the police or not. The climax is the moment when she incinerates the whole thing in the raging fire of the sanctuary. She lets everything burn: herself, her heart, and her moral responsibility towards her kind, her affectionate motherhood, and her baby monster. This is a legend, a true story of the real love: motherhood, a monumental commemoration of motherhood. It just left me speechless.
There are so many instances in which the mother displays her faint rejection of the baby, her impossible hate for her baby’s deeds. She discovers the visiting doctor’s body, starts crying, and repulsively hides the body away. I particularly liked the shots in the kitchen and how hastily, with a quivering denying body but affectionate soul, she refills the huge and numerous bottles of baby milk. In fact the film does not feature lots of instances displaying the real conflict, referred to above. Intentionally, or not, the movie masks the real conflict and plot of the story. This makes the movie even more pertinent, more enjoyable, and justly entertaining.
Other It’s Alive Remakes
Other versions of the movie may convey different messages depending on the narrative centre of attention. The camera’s point of view defines it all. I gather one of the versions aims to deliver a statement about the side effects of birth control, the pills and whatnot. A focus on the causes of the baby’s deformation effectively renders that message. Here lies the reason why I call this story a legend. It all depends on how you tell it. It has a magic power of encompassing various and sometimes even paradox meanings.
It’s Alive intelligently shifts conventional scary movie making. Moreover, the movie cleverly pushes the viewer to focus on the evil incarnated by the child. The killing mayhem perpetrated by the child is satisfactorily shy perhaps in accordance with the limitations of a child. Killings happen in a rush. One second the victim is alive, the next there’s blood everywhere. The shy camera features quick rather flimsy shots of the body remnants, delicate and smart horror footage.
Serious Meaning of It’s Alive 2009
I believe that there is even a philosophical underlying dimension to this movie. Reference is not to the eternal conflict between good and evil, which is omnipresent in all forms of storytelling. The philosophical conflict or dimension lies in an intense yet peaceful struggle between reason and affection, between what you feel is right and what you know is not right. It is the intangible dimension probably of the same conflict between good and evil. Because it is intangible; it is invisible. That’s why the camera is shy all throughout the film, shy in showing the details of the murders, shy in featuring the baby itself, and shy in displaying the real conflict. The philosophical message seems to be that the heart always wins. Should we be afraid of what our hearts tell us? Is that why the story was told in this scary mode? Somehow this movie comes to demystify the wisdom of the heart. The wisdom that every mom and dad, teacher and counselor tells everybody else: follow your heart. The self-inflicted suicidal fate, met by the mother and her child, is a really loud statement to that effect. Fathers should only compete with the mothers in exercising adoring parenthood and true affection for their children.
London Metropolitan University