Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.
In 40 years of watching horror movies, I have viewed a cadre of serial killers bloodily dispatch teenagers in increasingly disturbing and creative fashion, and not lost a moment’s sleep. I’ve chuckled while vampires and demons consumed and corrupted the innocent beyond count. And have gotten the munchies watching zombie hordes eat intestines like pasta at an all you can eat buffet
Yet for all the really scary stuff that’s left me yawning, it’s a cheesy 70s movie with a subtle-as-a-brick-to-the-head social message that somehow overrides my terror filters and sends me on a one-way trip to peeyourpants town. A pleasant little film called It’s Alive. Find out why after the break.
The plot is pretty straightforward, the Davies family heads to the hospital to deliver their new child. Said child is born with claws, fangs, and some exceedingly well developed musculature and proceeds to slaughter the delivery room staff, apparently bouncing from person to person and tearing out their throats like a wolverine on speed. The baby escapes, pursued by the father, played by John Ryan, who sets out to kill the infant, much to the dismay of Mom (played by Sharon Farrell). The baby murder-kills its way across Los Angeles, managing to off several police officers, and dad’s best friend. There’s a whole subplot about pharmaceuticals and pregnancy. In the end Dad learns to love his little death machine, but the baby dies in a hail of bullets along with the sleazy fertility doctor who prescribed the drug that led to the murderous mutation.
The movie was made only a decade after the Thalidomide scandal rocked the world, and its influence on the screenplay is obvious. It spawned two sequels (1978s It Lives Again and 1989’s It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive, which starred a pre-“Law and Order” Michael Morariaty. All three movies were written and directed by legendary B-movie auteur Larry Cohen. There was also a soulless 2008 remake that went straight to DVD and tried to inject some level of realism into a movie about a murderous mutant baby.
I watched the movie on network TV in 1976, and even the purified version pretty much blew every circuit-breaker in my eight-year old brain. It was that damn baby. Built by a young Rick Baker, you rarely saw the little beastie on-screen as more than a bunch of sharp teeth in the shadows; but those teeth and that horrible snarl haunted my dreams for years. My little sister learned to mimic the sound, and used it often to send me quaking under the covers (I’ve never gotten her back for that).
The truly crazy thing is the terror is so ingrained, I still can’t watch the movie today. It’s silly, I know. I can watch the remake, even the sequels. I can play the trailer over and over and download the images without a problem. But I know if I watch the whole movie, I’ll see those sharp teeth and hear that snarl emanating from every dark corner and half-open closet in the house; and little mutant baby would be visiting my dreams.
And my wife wouldn’t appreciate it if I started wetting the bed.