If ever there was a motion picture that was ripe for a glossy, modernized remake, Larry Cohen's ultra-cheesy 1974 murderous infant outing "It's Alive" would most certainly be the one. Despite my undying love of all things campy and low-budget and ridiculous, this dated relic from the corroded bowels of the mid-70's horror boom has, for one reason or another, never settled well with me. I've repeatedly attempted to properly understand why so many people seem to love it, yet the answer has eluded me each and every time. In theory, watching a mutant baby chew its way through a cast of lousy, ham-fisted actors should equate an evening's worth of empty-headed entertainment. The reality of the scenario, unfortunately, is a different set of emotions altogether.
In many distinct ways, frequent Wesley Snipes collaborator Josef Rusnak's podunk update of Cohen's killer baby opus is worse than the original. In fact, everything about this ill-conceived redux is at least 75% more irritating, though individual results do vary. Even if you possess the superhuman ability to overlook the unintelligible script, the uninspired direction, and the animated slabs of petrified wood disguised as Hollywood talent, you're still left with a rudimentary slasher featuring a monster who rarely shows its face on-screen. Having witnessed this cinematic diaper rash in all its infantile glory, it's no wonder the film's theatrical release was unceremoniously flushed in favor of a direct-to-video debut.
The central premise of “It’s Alive” is overflowing with potential, and had this ambitious project landed in the lap of someone who actually has the ability to deliver a coherent motion picture, perhaps it wouldn’t be nearly as unwatchable as it currently stands. The story -- a threadbare tale about a young couple and their newborn baby’s penchant for unchecked brutality -- requires the talent of an imaginative filmmaker who understands the fundamentals of storytelling to ensure maximum scares, suspense, and believability. Rusnak fails epically on all accounts; even the picture’s blood-soaked finale is a snore-inducing bore.
And while you can't necessarily blame the cast for the endless stream of horrible dialogue they're forced to regurgitate at any given moment, you can hold them responsible for the quality of their embarrassingly stagnant performances. Bijou Phillips, an actress who continues to find work despite a glaring lack of talent, remains confused and hopelessly lost for the majority of the film, as does veteran British actor James Murray. There's nary a moment to be found when these two feel like a real couple, let alone the parents of a disturbed child. To be fair, Murray appears to be putting forth an honest effort, and does his best when given the chance. Phillips, on the other hand, is flat, bland, and wholly unlikable, which is pretty much par for the course. If she's not playing a skank, a skag, or a drug-addicted whore, then I'm not interested. At least I'm being honest.
The most irritating aspect of the entire bloody film is the complete and utter lack of screen time given to the movie's pint-sized, flesh-eating monster. Sure, there are a handful of POV shots and plenty of quick glimpses sprinkled here and there, but so what? Give me a fully-realized killer baby, damn it. If your tiny, nonexistent budget prevents you from creating a quality computer-generated beastie capable of delivering the occasional cheap scare, at least have the decency to shake a rubber doll at the camera every so often. Watching the aftermath of this rat-eating, cat-skinning, nipple-biting freak's carnivorous shenanigans gets old pretty quick. Can you feel the frustration oozing our of your computer screen? If not, feel harder.
Were I a dung beetle, and prone to doing dung beetle-ish things, I would happily roll "It's Alive" into a tiny, compact ball and joyfully lay my eggs in the center of it. Then, of course, I'd bury it. Forget approaching this eyesore as entertainment -- this ramshackle collection of sights and sound should be utilized by a team of skilled instructors in order to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again. And if the horrendous acting and poor direction aren't enough to annoy the hell out of you, be sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled for the sly Pro-Life message buried towards the tail end of the feature. It's the icing on a cake designed specifically to ruin your day. Much appreciated.