It’s Alive (2008)

Directed By: Josef Rusnak
Written By: Larry Cohen
  Paul Sopocy
Starring: Bijou Phillips
  James Murray
  Owen Teale
  Skye Bennett
It’s Alive

‘There’s only thing wrong with the Davies baby; it’s alive’, went the tagline for the 1974 killer-tot flick, It’s Alive. The tagline for the 2008 remake however reads thus; ‘Please Be Quiet. Do not wake him up.’ This significant drop in quality in something as inconsequential as the tagline is indicative of the remakes’ diminished achievements in every other facet of the movie, when compared with the original.

The bare bones of the story are unchanged; a heavily pregnant woman; Lenore, is rushed into hospital, her partner Frank in tow, where she is told it is necessary for her baby to be born prematurely and by caesarean to prevent complications. On its early arrival into the World, the baby then violently murders all the surgeons and hospital staff in the room leaving its Mother as the only survivor. Completely oblivious, the couple take their newborn bundle of death-dealing joy home and it’s only when Lenore begins to find dead animals, and later; dead humans around their home and grounds that she begins to suffer from flashbacks of the birth and comes to suspect that it might be her son that’s doing the killing.

Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive trilogy comprises three hugely enjoyable cult horror movies; both terrifying and hilariously camp in equal measure. You can imagine my trepidation then, on hearing about a straight remake of the first movie. What worked so well over 30 years ago, now seems a little far-fetched and unbelievable. A killer baby? Yeah, right. Somehow, it was easy to suspend disbelief and watch in horror as the tiny terror claimed his victims but now, in 2009, it just seems a little…hard to swallow.

For most of it’s modest 80 minute running time, the actors appear to have dubbed their own voices after the scenes were filmed. Maybe the budget didn’t extend to decent microphones, or perhaps the sound just wasn’t quite what the makers were hoping for. Either way, this apparent over-dubbing creates a rather bizarre auditory experience that’s reminiscent of so many of the Giallo flicks of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The dialogue is delivered in a very stilted fashion, as if the actors were merely re-reading their lines in a studio by themselves, with nothing and no-one to react to, stripping the whole thing of any emotion or credibility.

The acting, possibly due, in part, to the supposed over-dubbing, comes across as a tad rookie. The parents of the child; Bijou Philips and James Murray, never seem to be able to muster anything close to the required amount of abject horror needed in order for the audience to believe that they have just discovered their newborn son is psychopathic hell-spawn. Philips is the better of the two and at times, is almost sympathetic, but always seems to return to the familiarly bland, dead-eyed non-acting. Where the first movie succeeded in making us feel for the put-upon, new parents, this movie falls at every hurdle in terms of sentimentality.

The over-used and unnecessary CGI is amongst the worst I have ever seen on film. One scene in particular sticks in my memory and involves a tiny, computer-rendered, clawed hand reaching over it’s Mothers’ shoulder and is seven kinds of shite in its execution. We seldom see the baby in question but when we do, in brief cut-away shots, it looks suspiciously as though a real baby’s face has been superimposed over a dolls. I’m pretty confident that I could have done a better job of creating a more realistic, murderous infant with the use of only a Cabbage Patch Kid, a bottle of ketchup and 10 minutes of my spare time. That’s how bad it is.

The poor ‘special’ effects, when coupled with the appalling sound and dialogue, make for a truly awful and unintentionally laugh-out-loud cinematic experience. It’s a shame that, given the excellent source material, director Rusnak has provided us with such an astoundingly execrable remake. There is little to like about this movie, and there are no grounds on which for me to recommend it. Take my advice; watch Cohen’s original and pretend this doesn’t exist.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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