Recently, I reviewed one of my favorite flicks from the early ’70s, the Larry Cohen movie It’s Alive. If you’ve read it, you can tell that I enjoyed pretty much every aspect of it; of course, it wasn’t a perfect film (so very few ever even come close to that), but I still have to admit that I enjoy the hell out of it every time I watch it; it’s got a social message, and succeeds in being creepy and campy at the same time.
That being fresh on my mind, I figured I’d bite the bullet and check out the remake of my old fave and throw out my thoughts on it. Again, if you read my reviews, you’ll know I’m not the biggest fan of remakes; however, I hope I’ve also demonstrated that I try to put that prejudice aside for the benefit of giving you guys as objective a viewpoint as I can (yeah, I know; I need to keep working on that 🙂 ). Thus, I settled in the other eve and plugged in It’s Alive (2008), making a conscious effort to keep an open mind…
Lenore is a college student, about six months into her pregnancy. When we first meet her, she’s packing up to take a break from her studies to have her baby and spend some time with her boyfriend (and the child’s father) Frank, living in the high country with his wheelchair-bound brother, Chris. Lenore goes into labor very prematurely, and at the hospital the doctor tells Frank that the child is extremely large for a six-month old fetus, and will have to be taken via C-section, but that he expects everything to be fine. Well, once in the delivery room, the good doctor’s words could be considered true in one sense; Lenore and the baby are fine…but the entire medical crew is found savagely ripped apart, the room itself looking like a blood bomb exploded in it. Much to the chagrin of the local police, Lenore seems to recall nothing from the incident that left only her and her newborn alive, bathed in blood (she was heavily sedated, she insists).
After a cordial but frustrating interview, the cops let her go home, but only after securing a promise that she will speak to their psychologist in the near future to try to jar her memory. Once home, it isn’t long before Lenore begins to notice that her bundle of joy has some pretty startling appetites (if the breastfeeding leaving her with mangled and torn breasts didn’t convince her, the ripped apart cats and birds probably did); trying to be a good mom (and assuage some deep-seated guilt), she only wants her child to be happy, so she keeps these little facts under her hat. That little bit of motherly love winds up costing some of her friends and associates quite dearly, and when Frank finally puts all the pieces together (gotta be the single most unobservant dude I’ve ever watched in a horror flick), it may be too late to overcome her motherly instinct for their savage infant…
I kept the mind open, and I have to say I didn’t hate the flick; however, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have issues with it. The acting wasn’t as awful as I’d heard; the film centered on Bijou Phillips as Lenore pretty much 90% of the time, and I thought her performance was pretty good considering the outrageousness of the script.
The rest of the cast was passable; nothing extra, but we’ve all seen a lot worse (I was a bit put off by the lack of use of Chris; he just served no purpose…it’s like the screenwriter just forgot about him…not the actor’s fault). The story started out pretty intriguing, putting a modern spin on the old classic, but it kinda fell apart under it’s own weight as the film went on. Motherly instinct is, without argument, a very powerful thing, but I tend to believe that even the most ardent maternal figure would draw the line at hiding bodies just so her newborn could keep on with it’s cannibalistic lifestyle (I mean, when the only a couple-weeks-old kid eats the fucking cat, wouldn’t most moms at least consult a doctor?). When the overall reason for the mutation is touched upon, I felt that it was a clever attempt at a new angle; sadly, it’s poorly executed and ultimately not very satisfying. Finally, the film suffers in the special effects department, as a lot of DTV films do; it’s a step or two above your average SyFy fare, but it’s still pretty rough; the scenes of the child attacking when you can’t really see it aren’t bad, but the shots of the feral baby itself are pretty weak (and why it looks normal, but then “hulks out” to attack is never explained). Gore suffers as well, although some of the ferocity of the attacks is worth seeing; there is a lot of blood for the hounds, but very little “meat” (heh-heh).
The original movie, to me, was a much more realistic take, with the news reports and corporate corruption and the destruction of a family’s reputation taking center stage; however, if you examine this remake from a cerebral viewpoint, you could see it as an exploration of Lenore’s sanity (or lack thereof). I guess you take out of it what you put into it. If you’re looking for depth, I’d say pass this one by; if you’re just looking to be entertained, this one is an OK time-passer.
Personally, I feel the 1974 original is a much stronger film, but surprisingly I found this one watchable for a different vibe; I didn’t loathe it, and I certainly expected to.
For a remake, and especially a remake of a film I really like, that’s saying something.
Note: A lot of people gripe about the location looking nothing like New Mexico; admittedly, it doesn’t look like what most folks think of as NM, but there are mountains and pine forests in that state, and it does get pretty cold in those areas in the winter.