Retro-review: New on BluRay in an IT’S ALIVE TRILOGY COLLECTION from The Shout Factory; help me out and pick it up here on Amazon!
ISLAND OF THE ALIVE (1987)
aka IT’S ALIVE III
Directed by Larry Cohen
Written by Larry Cohen
Starring Michael Moriarty, Karen Black, Laurene Landon, James Dixon, Gerrit Graham, Macdonald Carey, Neal Israel, Art Lund, Ann Dane, William Watson, C.L. Sussex, Patch Mackenzie, Rick Garia
Rounding out my coverage of The Shout Factory’s IT’S ALIVE COLLECTION comes ISLAND OF THE ALIVE, which I think can be oddly categorized as the best and worst of the series. Worst because it takes away the killer baby aspect of the series and best simply because of Michael Moriarty.
The film opens with a trial with the life of one of the IT’S ALIVE babies held in the balance. In order to contain the threat, the babies are ordered to be destroyed on sight, but Stephen Jarvis (Michael Moriarty) is fighting to keep the baby alive. In a desperate attempt to prove the baby might have a bit of humanity in it, Jarvis lets the baby loose in the courtroom. When the baby is calm around Jarvis, the judge rules that there might be some hope for the critters yet. He orders that the captured babies be sent to an uninhabited island to live out their mutated days. Years later, Jarvis is a shell of a man—ostracized and outcasted by the public for somehow being the cause of the mutated baby phenomenon or at least a symptom of it and left by his wife Ellen (Karen Black) who just wants to forget about it all and go someplace where she isn’t recognized. Jarvis is contacted by an organization that found out where the babies have been living all these years and agrees to accompany a group to go and check up on the lil’ monsters and see if they can save them. The excursion goes awry when it is revealed the monsters have grown and are about to give birth to new babies themselves. Bringing one of the pregnant monsters back, it escapes and the authorities, Jarvis, and Ellen are in search of the preggo-beastie to save or kill it.
I like it that Cohen chose to evolve the storyline and not just repeat himself as he did with the first sequel. That said, the story is pretty ridiculous as it does go over some common ground involving the guilt and stigma one has after having a child that is imperfect. It’s this comment on society’s obsession with perfection that is at the heart of all of these IT’S ALIVE films, but through Moriarty’s excellent thespianism, it’s crystal clear and painful. While it entertaining to see Moriarty’s wry wit at play when he faces the judgmental ways of humanity, the series is repeating itself. All of that societal commentary is shed away once they head to the island and things get cheap and predictable. The prosthetic suits of the adult alive monsters are pretty bad, which is saying something as the babies weren’t very convincing in any of the installments of this series. At least in this one, they shell out the money for some decent stop motion animation for the baby in the opening scene.
But while the film itself is rather meandering and ridiculous, I’d still recommend this film to anyone simply because of Moriarty’s oddball demeanor. He really is a treasure of an actor, never really giving a straight delivery to any line and even when frantically serious, he’s unhinged in his own special way. Moriarty embraces this ludicrous situation with humor and authenticity, showing true regret and sorrow at the losses he has faced as well as the stubbornness to never give up on what he longs for—a real family. In the end, the IT’S ALIVE series concludes in the most unconventional of ways, with a family reunited, accepting, and happy. It’s not what is expected in a horror film or a horror series that dealt with some pretty hefty issues, but it rounds the series out in a rather quaint and likable way.
Imperfect in all of it’s installments, the IT’S ALIVE film series really did try to tackle some big issues in some rather clumsy and rudimentary ways. There are some heavy themes at play and if you read between the cheese, the storyline is poignant and just as timely today as it was when it was released. IT’S ALIVE III: ISLAND OF THE ALIVE comes with special features including an audio commentary by writer/director Larry Cohen, an interview with special effects man Steve Neill, and a still gallery.
If you like the review above, help me out and click on the link to buy it on Amazon here!!!