After recently covering director Larry Cohen’s Full Moon High and Wicked Stepmother in a blog and realizing I’d already covered Q: The Winged Serpent, A Return to Salem’s Lot, and The Stuff, I figured it was time to round out my Cohen coverage. So now I take on two of his odd releases and his It’s Alive trilogy!
IT’S ALIVE (1974)
The original classic hasn’t aged well, but it is still a great nostalgic flick that captures the spirit of more fucked up, dark and gritty horror of the early 1970s.
A couple going into labor sends their son off to stay with a male friend (WEIRD) then heads to the hospital. The delivery goes awful, with “It” popping out and slaughtering all the doctors and nurses in the delivery room before taking off.
The doc informs the father that when they find It, they need to kill It. We get an early, quick full Monty of It baby face when It first attacks someone.
But as the father struggles with the horror of the trail of bodies It’s leaving behind and the cops hunt all over town for It, we really don’t get to see much of the murderers or It beyond blurry “It POV”.
All the awesome insanity and gore comes in at the end when we learn where It has been and everyone follows It when It heads for the sewers.
But, just when you thought it was safe to get a sperm douche again, we learn…another “It” has been born somewhere else.
GOD TOLD ME TO (1976)
The Crazies go to church.
Beginning with an eerily contemporary scene of people running and screaming in panic on a city street as a sniper shoots at them, God Told Me To focuses on detectives looking into cases of people committing murders and then saying “God told me to.”
While it starts more as a police procedural, it eventually turns into…religious horror.
Blech! And it just keeps sinking deeper and deeper into the hell hole of faith as one detective uncovers an apocalyptic plot involving birth, sex, and…God.
I’ll stick to It’s Alive for my dose of 1970s Larry Cohen.
IT LIVES AGAIN (1978)
At this point in time, I prefer the second film over the first because it is so fricking bad it serves a slice of trashy 1970s horror with extra bubbling cheese.
The dad from the first movie crashes a baby shower. After disappointing a woman who assumes he’s a queer for not hitting on her, he tells the expecting couple (including the awesome Kathleen Lloyd of The Car) that their baby is probably an “It.”
He insists they need to plot a getaway from the hospital because authorities are now standing with guns aimed at the vaginas of birthing mothers in case there’s an It inside just waiting to tear her a new one.
The couple goes right along with the plan! And to think we still have parents who hate their queer children almost as much as the rejected woman from the baby shower.
Would you believe It kills everyone in the back of the getaway truck the mom delivers in?
The rest of the movie takes place at a special facility for “Its,” run by specialists who think they’re misunderstood. That’s why the specialists…keep them locked up in cages. Even better, they plan to mate these caged Its.
The Its are getting more action than the couple, who comes to live at the place, but fights over not wanting to have sex anymore…which means the Its are scoring more than the couple.
The first movie dad is still lurking around to interfere when the Its break free and start a lot more slaughtering than in the first film. YAY! We also see a lot more Its, too. And to add to the absurdity, an It goes for a piece of cake at a kid’s birthday party that appears to be taking place in the middle of a fricking meadow. But the It isn’t what scares them away…it’s a snake. WTF? The only thing that could have made this moment any better if it had been a setup for a film called It vs. Sssssss that would have closed out the 1970s horror era in 79.
IT’S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE (1987)
Just when you think the franchise can’t get any worse, it’s resurrected at the end of the 80s, which means it’s perfectly craptastic.
Cohen’s 1980s leading man Michael Moriarty is the perfect weirdo to still be defending the rights of these freaks (against Bud the CHUD in court, no less), managing to get them exiled to a remote island to live out their lives.
That’s gonna leave a hole.
He goes there to help his It get settled in comfortably…just as a bunch of hunters arrives for an entirely different reason.
Just when you think all the ridiculous, fully grown “It” chaos and gory slaughter is going to be on the “Island of the Alive” for the full duration of the film, the Its run out of victims and hop on a boat to pull a King Kong back in the real world…at a punk rock club where Moriarty’s ex-wife works. She happens to be Karen Black, who wants nothing to do with her little monster…but It definitely wants to reunite with mommy.
As if Karen doesn’t bring enough white trash elegance to the film, there’s an insane new wavers vs. punks battle on the street that puts Valley Girl to shame. We can only hope that when the 1980s fairy dust settles, Moriarty and Black reconcile and decide to raise their little monster. It really is the perfect family.
THE AMBULANCE (1990)
The Ambulance is so quirky I could see Larry Cohen wanting Michael Moriarty to once again play his lead. Instead, Eric Roberts handles the duties perfectly.
The film opens as he’s flirting with a girl on a city street (the #MeTooing someone of its day) when she collapses. An ambulance takes her away and then she kind of disappears. This sets Roberts’s motivation in motion—he spends the rest of the film trying to find her as more and more people who get picked up by an ambulance go missing.
The film would be so much more intriguing if it didn’t immediately show the audience that the victims are simply being kidnapped by a mad doctor (The Young and The Restless icon Eric Braeden).
So yeah, it’s all a mystery to Eric and the various characters he teams up with along the way (the likes of James Earl Jones and Red Buttons), but it’s all spoiled for the viewers.
Instead of making us think it’s some sort of supernatural ambulance, we regularly witness Braeden’s henchman loading people onto It…I mean it. So we just watch and wait for Eric to figure it out.
For me, the highlight of the film is a scene near the end in which Braeden goes psycho behind the wheel of the ambulance, trying to run Roberts down.