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It's Alive (2009)
31st Aug 09
A baby born to a normal couple is a monster killer thing with nasty claws.
Has anyone noticed how many movies these days are remakes or sequels? Or they're dragging an old franchise into the 21st century by 're-inventing' it, or they're just blatantly ripping old stories off because, let's face it, there aren't many original ideas left? Is that how you feel? If it is, I'd stay well clear of the It's Alive remake.
The plot is as simple as the original, but different in a few fundamental ways that we'll go in to later. Essentially Bijou Phillips plays Lenore, a graduate student who takes time out from college to have the baby she and boyfriend Frank conceived accidentally. She's very excited but also nervous, they've kitted out the nursery in their very dark and bizarrrely morbid house in the middle of nowhere, but her college friends are worrried the baby will change her and she won't come back and finish her studies. Then she goes in to labour, and things start to get a bit uninspiring from here onwards.
She goes in to labour, is rushed in to the emergency ward, and passes out as the baby is being born. Then she wakes up with the cute little baby in her arms, while the mangled corpses of the small team of doctors and nurses who delivered the baby decorate the room. Naturally, since she doesn't know what happened, and since the baby looks fine, they let her go home almost straight away. And there, in that dark house in the middle of nowhere, she nurtures for the child, with the occassional visit from cops, her college friends, that kind of thing, the only strangeness here though is that the guests that turn up to see Lenore and her freaky baby often don't tend to leave.
The differences between this movie and the original are distinct, and you presume have been made to update the story to a modern timeline, but immediately you have to question whether the changes made work. The original, relased some 35 years ago, had Frank Davis as the central character, struggling to come with the fact that he'd fathered a monster baby, disowning the child constantly until the very end when, confronting the child that he'd already shot down a sewer, his paternal instincts kick in as he tries in vain to save him. The remake however is all about the mother Lenore, and her struggling between the two emotions of having unbridled love for your new child, and the sheer horror of witnessing, and often clearing up, the violence he is capable of. This is a major shift, and you imagine rides hand in hand with the decision to make the remake baby a remarkably normal looking (except for the claws) CGI'd thing as opposed to the big rubbery monster baby from the original. I guess with modern technology the idea of a bulbous monster baby not being detected in one of the many scans mother's have these days is quite ridiculous.
Another major difference between this film and the original is the pivotal delivery scene. In the original, the baby is a beast, jumps out the womb, kills the hospital staff, escapes through the ventilation shaft and is off. This opens out the film, allowing police searches, false alarms, TV news spots and even a hilarious milkman death to be written in to the plot. This time around, the baby looks positively angelic after the hospital slaughter and Lenore takes the baby home, thus closing the story off and effectively confining the rest of the movie to their weird dark house in the middle of nowhere. The rest, while not a waste of time, is much more claustrophobic and ultimately less satisfying, as you can pretty much guess the rest of the movie. Lenore's going to get a few visitors, and they're basically going to get bumped off while Lenore has her back turned, after which follows a corpse disposal sequence as she tries to cover for her baby. Then the next guest arrives, and so on.
So, the It's Alive remake isn't a really bad film, but it feels like a really half baked attempt to bring the tale to a modern time. The cast pull in very forgettable performances all round (especially the boyfriend who's face I can't even remember) with the exception of Bijou Phillips who at least tries to fulfil the troubled mother role the remake demands. They also miss the 'social commentary' touched upon in the original by blaming the mother directly as opposed to making the cause of the mutation a freak product of modern times relating to all the polutants we pump into our bodies every day. That's a real shame, and has probably closed the door to any sequels, which is evebn more of a stinger as It's Alive 3: Island of the Alive is possibly the most fun movie involving killer babies you'll ever see.
If you haven't seen the original, you can get a 3 movie DVD set very, very cheap now on Amazon Marketplace, and I urge you to do just that. The first has dated badly but is very thought provoking and deserves its cult status, the second feels a little like a shameless cash in admittedly but the third is an absolute riot. They're all head and shoulders over the remake though, and it's no surprise this has gone direct to DVD.
Versions Available Sept 6th UK and Oct 6th US. It's been available in Bahrain since April though according to IMDB.
8th Jun 04 The film opens with a very similar voiceover narration to the original (see Trivia) but with different footage as we tour the furnace room, all fingernail scratches and blood-clotted hair, of the Hewitt residence.