It’s Alive (1974)
If one can get past the puppet baby and the general cheap hokiness of the movie, Larry Cohen’s It’s Alive is a very effective horror movie. It taps into the very real anxiety of new parents that their child will come out “wrong” and the way society treats children with mental issues or physical deformities. The scene of the new mother, laying on the table in a hospital room full of dead doctors and nurses screaming for her child is genuinely one of the most disturbing moments in cinema history. It’s a surprisingly deep and human story dressed up in the livery of a trashy cult film.
It’s Alive (2009)
The 2009 remake of It’s Alive takes a completely different approach to its subject matter. The original is about a couple realizing that their child is a monster and coming to realize and accept that this monster is still their child and they love him. The remake focuses on a mother who knows her child is a monster and is hell-bent on keeping anyone else from figuring it out. The baby in this movie is just as powerful and murderous as the one in the original but here looks like a normal infant.
The movie plays on the concept of a woman fighting back against the idea that motherhood is causing her to give up on her life and while caring for a baby tears her life apart. There’s some allusions to postpartum depression and the exhaustion of being a new parent that work in the moment but do very little to inform the movie as a whole. It’s a twist on the concept but the baby’s murder spree seems to be largely based on his mother’s anxiety and there are enough movies about crazy parents (especially crazy moms) trying to protect their false status quo with lethal results. It feels like its been done already.
Oh, did I also mention that its implied that the reason that baby Daniel is a murderous chainsaw baby is because his dumb college-aged mom took mail order abortion pills her dorm-mate found on the internet? Yeeeeeeeeah. It’s best not to dwell on that for too long.
Also, the end of this movie can go fuck itself.
Is it a Good Remake?
The remake certainly beats out the original if you’re looking at it from a standpoint of production values. Despite some dodgy CG and a character whose lines are poorly dubbed, this movie is the superior of the 1974 version in every way. But while the remake isn’t a bad movie by any stretch, it just doesn’t capture the same raw power that the original managed to. The movie’s well-made but distant and impersonal and that just doesn’t work as well with a concept so fiercely human and personal. It tries, but the original really captures the human tragedy in the story while the remake is just another horror movie.
Does it stand on its own?
There are far worse movies you can watch. On the spectrum of killer baby movies released in 2009, It’s Alive is certainly a more worthwhile watch than Grace. It’s not a great movie but it’s put together well and the horror mostly works. Its main flaws are in how it compares to its predecessor, not how it stands on its own. I don’t personally need to watch this ever again but I’m not going to make that judgement call for anyone else.
Watch, Toss, or Buy?
I think if you’re a fan of the original movie or just think the concept is interesting, it’s worth a watch.