Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Final Girl Film Club: It's Alive (1974) Review

In the past I’ve made the mistake of making analogous references to things that are peculiar to my home country, which confuses the Pavlova out of people who are not from my home country. In order to avoid such confusion during my discussion of It’s Alive, I’m going to quickly explain what a Jam Ball Doughnut is, just in case this tasty treat is not well recognised internationally. A Jam Ball Doughnut is, as the name suggests, a (loosely) ball shaped doughnut. It‘s dusted in sugar and has a single vein of jam that goes into the doughnut's centre where you'll find a big glob of the same jam. Now, this jam is like no other jam you will find in any jar or in any other food. It’s iridescently iridescent red in color and has a unique taste that resembles nothing in the natural world. It’s one of life’s big mysteries as to why this particular jam can only found in Jam Ball Doughnuts, and nowhere else, but there you have it. Now, with that clumsy bit exposition out of the way let’s talk about It’s Alive

Frank (John Ryan) and Lenore (Sharron Farrell) are expecting parents. Late one night Lenore rolls over in bed and tells Frank “it’s time”. The happy couple calmly get their crap together, drop off their first son at a friend’s house, and check-in at the local Community Hospital. Lenore is quickly escorted into the delivery suite while Frank waits in the expecting father’s waiting room. Frank barely has time to have an ominous conversation, with the other expecting fathers, about pollution and chemicals in food and blah blah blah bad stuff in the “modern” world, before the proverbial excrement hits the fan.

Screaming is heard coming from Lenore’s delivery suite. One of the many nameless medical practitioners in attendence emerges clutching his bloodied throat and collapses on the floor, dead. When Frank runs into the delivery suite, Lenore is still on the delivery table, screaming, but the new born baby is nowhere to be seen and the several hundred doctors and nurses in attendance are strewn all over the floor, dead. It’s a shocking scene of carnage with everyone and everything covered in Jam Ball Doughnut jam.

After the bloody birth, the film follows the murderous trail of Lenore & Frank’s fugitive mutant baby in one sub-plot and the fallout for our unhappy couple in the other.

I still can’t decide whether I liked It’s Alive or not. The basic premise is pure schlock, but the execution is serious and assured. It’s never terribly suspenseful or scary, but it’s still strangely entertaining most of the way through. The mutant baby is a bit hokey looking, but it’s appearances are brief and shadowy. The film nicely highlights the fact that when you mess with nature it tends to mess with you right back, but some of these references feel a bit forced (like the expecting father’s pow wow in the waiting room).

The performances are a mixed bag. John Ryan is pitch perfect as Frank, but Sharon Farrell’s performance is a little over-baked when she’s asked to convey Lenore’s post-mutant-baby-birth neurosis. Their first son, who the film checks in with from time to time (for some arbitrary reason), is a pure goofball, but his guardian for the duration of the film is solid.

I can honestly say I was never bored by It’s Alive, but I wasn’t exactly on the edge of my seat either. The fact that I dedicated a paragraph of this review to describing doughnuts is a fair indication of my ambivalence towards it and how difficult it is to say something meaningful about it. Somehow it’s worse than good, but better than bad.

Related Links:

Final Girl Film Club
Final Girl