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  It Lives Again Bringing Up Baby
Year: 1978
Director: Larry Cohen
Stars: Frederic Forrest, Kathleen Lloyd, John P. Ryan, John Marley, Andrew Duggan, Eddie Constantine, James Dixon, Dennis O'Flaherty, Melissa Inger, Jill Gatsby, Bobby Ramsen, Glenda Young, Lynn Wood
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Eugene Scott (Frederic Forrest) and his wife Jody (Kathleen Lloyd) are expecting a baby soon, and hold a party for the approaching birth. Everyone has a fine old time, there's plenty to eat, and the presents are many, but come the point for the partygoers to leave one of them seems reluctant to go. Eugene thinks his wife knows who he is and Jody believes her husband knows who he is but when they realise neither has any idea they are forced to enquire: who are you, sir? He turns out to be Frank Davis (John P. Ryan), who hit the headlines fairly recently, and he has bad news about their unborn child...

It's Alive was the first in this series, a sleeper hit blessed not only with a far better performance from Ryan than it might have deserved, but also a premise which was schlocky enough to generate its own publicity through generous word of mouth: did you hear about the killer baby movie? Taking the central plot of Ray Bradbury's classic short story The Small Assassin about as far as it would go by featuring a newborn infant which sported fangs and claws all the better to tear open the throats of anyone foolish enough to get close, once the denouement arrived and the conflicted Frank was left alone, where else was there to go?

The answer to that was a sequel where there was not simply one mutant baby, but three, and a conflict between those who wish to preserve them and those who wish to eradicate them as a menace to society. Which was all very well, but the simplicity of the original was left overcomplicated as a result, not to such a degree that it was unwatchable, but by this point it had become a more conventional monster movie in spite of returning director Larry Cohen's script doing his level best to tap into the well of invention which had benefitted the initial instalment. His trademark quirks were there, but less than satisfying was Ryan's performance not being the sole focus.

So while he attempted to bring some of the emotion he had delivered originally, this was diluted not only since you were aware of what to expect from him this time around, but because he was essentially playing second fiddle - third, even - to Forrest and Lloyd who did their best but were hampered by an oddly soap opera-style plot. It wasn't all bad by any means, as Cohen knew his way around a fright sequence, especially one on a fairly low budget, but the way in which he came across as reluctant to show his monsters was now more coy than suspenseful. Those sequences were fair enough, but when pretty much all of them ended with a cast member holding a rubber baby up to their throats and yelling "Argh!" they lacked a proper pay-off.

That was hard to deny when the budget for the gore seemed to have been cut dramatically as well, compared to the source at any rate leaving this with an oddly televisual appearance, as if Cohen was returning to his roots in series television and crafting a pilot for a small screen spin-off. Frank's intervention in the fate of the Scotts' baby leads to a sort of conspiracy tone to the film as he and his cohorts (including a rare American movie for Eddie Constantine as a doctor) drive around in a customised truck with a delivery room, trying to preserve the mutants - see what I mean about this seeming like a TV pilot? Of course, it all goes horribly wrong as the government intervenes with force, making this resemble an adventure thriller more than a horror, even with Cohen throwing in an homage to Jaws with Forrest vulnerable from one of the beastly babies as he takes a dip in a swimming pool - daft, but as often you admire the director's chutzpah. What he really needed was a better idea to advance his basic plot, but fans would have to wait about ten years for that. Music was Bernard Herrmann's original score rearranged.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Larry Cohen  (1938 - )

Talented American writer/director who often combines exploitation subject matter with philosophical/social concepts. Began working in TV in the 1960s, where he created popular sci-fi series The Invaders, before directing his first film, Bone (aka Dial Rat), in 1972. A pair of blaxploitation thrillers - Black Caesar and Hell Up In Harlem - followed, while 1974's horror favourite It's Alive! was a commercial hit that led to two sequels.

God Told Me To and Special Effects were dark, satirical thrillers, while Q: The Winged Serpent and The Stuff were witty modern monster movies. Cohen directed Bette Davis in her last film, Wicked Stepmother, and reunited Blaxploitation stars Pam Grier, Fred Williamson and Richard Roundtree for Original Gangstas in 1996. Cohen has also had considerable success as a scriptwriter, turning in deft screenplays for the Maniac Cop films and mainstream pictures like Best Seller, Sidney Lumet's Guilty As Sin and most recently Joel Schumacher's Phone Booth.

 
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