Thursday, June 21, 2012

It Lives Again (1978)

... aka: Baby Killer II
... aka: It Lives Again: It's Alive 2
... aka: It's Alive II

Directed by:
Larry Cohen

Much of the cast and crew are back from the director's breakthrough hit IT'S ALIVE (1974), including writer / director / producer Larry Cohen, composer Bernard Herrmann, make-up effects artist Rick Baker and actors John P. Ryan and James Dixon, for this watchable though somewhat disappointing follow-up. In Tucson, Arizona lawyer Eugene Scott (Frederic Forrest) and his law school dropout homemaker wife Jody (Kathleen Lloyd), who's about a week away from giving birth to the couple's first child, are throwing a baby shower. As the crowd clears out, a stranger remains in their home. He introduces himself as Frank Davis (Ryan). It takes the couple a minute to realize it, but he's the same guy who's been in Time Magazine and on the news: the father of the very first mutant, killer baby. Since his case, several other similar incidents have occurred across the U.S., including one in Seattle, where the infant was killed immediately after birth. A blood sample taken from Jody has revealed that she's also likely to be give birth to one of these babies. The Scott home is already being staked out by government agents hired to snuff out the baby once it is born. Frank is there simply to give them another alternative.

Sympathetic to the predicament the Scott family and others are in, Frank and doctors Forrest (Eddie Constantine) and De Silva (Bobby Ramsen) have created a mobile operating room unit located inside a truck. The option is to tranquilize the baby before it is born and then place it in an incubator / cage. When Jody suddenly goes into labor (a week early), they can't reach Frank by phone and are forced to go to the hospital instead. Dozens of policemen are there and a hired baby-killer named Mr. Mallory (John Marley), whose wife had been killed by one of the babies, waits by her bed with a loaded gun. Frank manages to sneak in, holds Mallory at gunpoint and then gets Jody and her husband moved into the mobile unit. Jody gives birth on the truck, the baby is placed in its cage and then transported to a safe house in Los Angeles run by Dr. Perry (Andrew Duggan). There, compassionate doctors experiment on the infants. They already have two in captivity (which they've nicknamed Adam and Eve) and the Scott baby makes the third. Perry wants them to realize their maximum potential, believe they're "the next step forward in evolution" and the babies prove to be highly intelligent, may be able to reproduce at around age 6 and can be non-violent when the surroundings are non-threatening. Like in the first film, they also are able to somehow psychically find their own parents.

With help, Jody - who's still in Tucson being watched by the police - is able to sneak away to Los Angeles to be with Frank, her husband and baby at the safe house. Unfortunately, her backstabbing mother (Lynn Wood), who's in cooperation with Mr. Mallory, had snuck a honing device into her purse beforehand. Lt. Perkins (Dixon) is called in again to organize a police raid on the house. The infants - with their powerful perception - know something is afoot and start freaking out as the police gather around the home. They manage to escape from their cages and kill several of the doctors. Two of the babies are killed by the police, but the Scott baby - with help from Frank - manages to escape into the woods. Eugene and Jody decide to cooperate with the police, who set them up in a country home knowing the baby will eventually find them, but the couple have second thoughts when the baby finally does show up.

Part 2 is a watchable, though pretty mediocre, follow-up. It's at its best in the beginning dealing with the warring factions of the baby sympathizers vs. the baby destroyers; a sort-of parallel to the opposing Pro Life and Pro Choice movements. The babies generally only get violent when their own lives are at stake or someone means them harm. However, they are also shown to get violent when people simply react to them with fear. They're instinctually-driven beings; very animalistic in some regards but not without some very human feelings and seem to want to return to their parents simply to be loved and nurtured (having some raw meat on hand doesn't hurt, either). However, none of that really changes the fact that they're unpredictable, very dangerous and kill indiscriminately whenever they feel threatened.

Ideas are thrown around about taming or teaching them better, but other ideas are also present, such as the babies being a new, evolved form of human who may threaten mankind if their number gets out of hand. The fact is, no one really knows much about them. Since the epidemic is still in its infancy, doctors don't have enough information to make a call one way or another. The government, on the other hand, could care less about answers and just want the things dead on arrival. The film raises some interesting moral and ethical questions along the way, but doesn't really provide any concrete answers. It also doesn't provide enough new material to really warrant this sequel, which rehashes much from the first. Things become less interesting and more formulaic toward the end, a last minute attempt to inject some heart into the proceedings rings false and some of the dialogue delivery (particularly by Mr. Forrest) is astoundingly bad. It's not an awful movie; just a lesser shadow of the first one.

One of the last shots in the film is a city shot of a trolley going down a hill. Off in the background is an island. The third and final film in this series was IT'S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE (1986).


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