Sunday, January 30, 2011

Baby Bumps Off: It’s Alive (2008) Review

Do we need more proof that filmmakers are so bankrupt of original ideas that they will remake absolutely anything? No? Too bad, because more proof is here, in the form of It's Alive, the 2008 remake (released DTV here in 2010) of the somewhat obscure 1974 original of the same name.

Lenore (Bijou Phillips) is a heavily pregnant post-grad college student who decides to put her studies on hold to move in with her boyfriend, and father of her baby, Frank (James Murray) to see out the pregnancy and have the baby. Shortly after moving in with Frank, Lenore goes into premature labour. Frank dutifully rushes her to hospital where her obstetrician explains that the baby has had a "growth spurt" and is ready to be delivered via caesarean section, stat.

What ensues is shown in disorientating jumps cuts, shaky camera work and almost subliminal flashes of bloody images. The end result: Lenore and baby are bloodied but alive, whilst the four medical practitioners in attendance are all dead. Bloody, splattered all over the room, dead.

Thanks to the effects of the anaesthesia, Lenore can't recall what happened. So the cops are left scratching their heads trying to figure out what went down while Lenore and Frank head home with their new born bundle of joy, Daniel, as if having your obstetrician and a team of medicos brutally slain during your birth is no real biggy. In the comfort of Frank's remote retreat things go from bad to worse, as their baby grows up fast and develops a taste for flesh even faster.

If you set aside the question of why you would bother remaking It's Alive and just, for a moment, assume that it had to be done, this updated version does do a lot of things right.

In the original, the baby's exploits and the post-traumatic stress of the parents were told as two separate sub-plots, only converging towards the end of the film. By changing this, and having the baby go home with Lenore and Frank, the remake feels less disjointed and Lenore's neurosis ultimately makes more sense.

The overt, borderline preachy, social commentary of the original has also been toned down a lot. The new film updates the message, taking a swipe at the usage of the internet for self-diagnosis and self-medication, but it makes its point relatively succinctly and then moves on. There are no rambling didactic monologues like there was in the original.

Finally, director Josef Rusnak, shows us plenty of carnage but hardly ever shows us the actual baby. He obviously understands that showing the baby in anything more than fleeting glances just highlights how ridiculous the whole notion is and leaves the audience in a state of laughter rather than a state of horror.

So, compared to the original, this remake is all good. That said, you still have to ask: is it a good film in its own right? Sadly, the answer is no, not really. You just can't escape the fact that the basic premise is pure schlock, and it doesn't matter how competent the execution, killer babies are just plain daft.

The film is also brutally short, not really allowing time for much of anything to actually happen. Just when things start to get going it all comes to a grinding halt. In fact, when the end comes you might just assume it's one of those faux endings that are followed by a resurrection of the antagonist before another finale or crescendo. The closing credits will swiftly inform you you've assumed wrong.

You could argue that the basic premise is so silly that the 1974 original probably shouldn't have been made, and therefore a modern remake is doubly pointless. In the end this remake just feels like a turd polishing exercise. Everyone involved has done a good job, but you're ultimately left wondering why they bothered with such a dubious project.