Friday, October 7, 2011


Honestly, a large chunk of these thirty-one entries should probably be dedicated to the films of Larry Cohen. I'm always completely floored by so much of what this guy accomplished as a writer. Not only was he prolific, but he's one of the few guys who understood how to take a fantastic subject and make it feel plausible. The films for which he is known best for contain elements which when summarized sound almost too absurd to ever be taken seriously. However, he doesn't simply tell tales of the strange, but rather he writes about strange things that happen to very ordinary people. The envelopes which contain his odd ideas are completely acceptable because they are so normal looking. They are white, they are letter-sized, they are secure. You feel safe ripping into them. Most directors and writers don't even give you a set up or a vehicle for their intentions. They just drop it in your lap like some dumb animal presenting its master with a fresh kill. Cohen approach has less to do with convincing effects and more to do with adorning the story with nuances of ordinary realism. The more horrific parts of the story are always surrounded by moments that don't really feel like they're out of a horror film and instead seem like real life. A lot of directors fail at making horror films because they don't care about the characters or the situations which define them. Cohen's stories feature real people dealing with insane situations, whereas a majority of horror films only build to a scare or try to hard to feel "scary." Cohen didn't really straight horror films in the conventional films; he made weird dramas dripping with satire, which is why his films are superior to so many others.

Cohen's "It's Alive," the first in a trilogy, is undoubtedly the grand daddy of all killer baby films and also one of his finest. Another thing that makes a lot of his films so great is the casting. By today's shallow standards, a guy like the phenomenal John P Ryan wouldn't stand a chance in blue hell of landing a leading man role, because regardless of his skill as an actor isn't what most would consider to be beautiful. However, charisma has far less to do with beauty than most people might think, and Ryan is absolutely dripping with it. What's more he's a hell of an actor. I also think when a performer looks more ordinary it absolutely makes them more relateable to the ordinary men and women in the audience. The script and direction here are priceless, but the acting rather than in-your-face effects are what really sell the situations here.

Here, Ryan plays Frank Davis, whose wife gives birth to an evolved monstrosity that's more equipped to survive wild badlands rather than lay cooing in a suburban crib. During labor, the baby escapes but not before butchering the hospital staff. At large, Baby Davis creates a wake of panic as it must kill to survive, and the city soon mounts a campaign to hunt and kill the infant before claims anymore lives. The bulk of the story really focuses on the maternal bond between parent and child, regardless of what they are or have become. Davis initially resists his feelings, but once faced with his child he completely caves. Ryan absolutely destroys as the conflicted father during a finale which seems heavily inspired by the sci-fi flick "Them!"

Davis returned to the role of Frank Davis in the phenomenal "It Lives Again." Years later, other mutant infants have started popping up, and Frank Davis has become the figurehead of a sort of underground railroad which protects these children from a government which wishes only to see them exterminated. The third and final installment "It's Alive III: Island of the Alive" is also worth the time, though not nearly as strong as the original two films.

Trailer courtesy 2009Murph.

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