The next feature up in the Larry Cohen collection is the second entry in the “It’s Alive” trilogy: “It Lives Again.”
“it Lives Again” was written, directed, and produced by Larry Cohen, and marked the first time since “Hell Up In Harlem” that he took on a sequel to one of his films.
The cinematography for “It Lives Again” was provided primarily by Fenton Hamilton, who worked with Cohen on a number of his earlier films (“Black Caesar,” “Hell Up In Harlem,” “It’s Alive”). Additional work was done by Daniel Pearl, who went on to become one of Cohen’s regular cinematographers on films like “Deadly Illusion” and “A Return to Salem’s Lot.” Supposedly, Hamilton left the productions on bad terms, clashing with Cohen creatively. However, Cohen dedicated “Full Moon High” to his memory after his death.
The makeup effects on “It Lives Again” were provided by the now-legendary special effects guru Rick Baker (“Videodrome,” “Men In Black,” “Track of the Moon Beast”), who returned after working with Larry Cohen previously on “Bone,” “Black Caesar,” and “It’s Alive.”
“It Lives Again” features the same music composed by the legendary Bernard Herrmann (“Psycho,” “Taxi Driver,” “Citizen Kane”) that was used in “It’s Alive,” with some additional work done by Laurie Johnson (“Dr. Strangelove”), who would return for “It’s Alive III.”
Aside from Larry Cohen, the other producer for “It Lives Again” was William Wellman, Jr, an actor who appeared in “It’s Alive” and “Black Caesar.”
“It Lives Again” had a number of editors, including Curtis Burch (“Joysticks”), Dennis Michelson (“On Deadly Ground”) and Carol O’blath (“Brain Dead,” “Puppet Master III”).
The cast for “It Lives Again” features John P. Ryan, Andrew Duggan, and James Dixon reprising their roles from the original “It’s Alive.” The rest of the cast includes Frederic Forrest (“Falling Down,” “Apocalypse Now”), Kathleen Lloyd (“The Missouri Breaks”), John Marley (“The Godfather”), Eddie Constantine (“The Long Good Friday”), and Jill Gatsby (“Class of 1999”).
The story of “It Lives Again” takes place shortly after the events of “It’s Alive,” following up on that film’s cliffhanger. More killer babies are popping up around the country, and the government is frantically trying to eliminate them before they are born. Frank Davis, the father of the child in the first film, goes on a mission to warn as many potential parents as possible about the government’s plans for their babies.
I couldn’t dig up any budget or box office information for “It Lives Again,” but the existence of “It’s Alive III” seems to indicate some level of financial success. The reception to the movie, however, wasn’t so good. It currently holds a 5.0 rating on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 44% (critics) and 28% (audience).
The performance of Frederic Forrest in “It Lives Again” is particularly intense, and the fallout of the central couple after their baby is taken away provides some very real drama in the story. That said, you certainly can’t get attached to him, and the film doesn’t feature any really memorable or sympathetic characters.
Once again, Larry Cohen creates a very serious and dark film out of a truly outlandish concept, while not entirely losing the humor inherent to a horde of babies murdering people.
One of the new ideas in “It lives Again” answers the question of how to deal with the babies that manage to survive. Given they are human, they can’t exactly kill them once they are alive and well. The idea of trying to train the evil babies to be good is kind of hilarious, but it is played off seriously enough that it is almost believable in the film’s context.
“It Lives Again” lacks some of the punch and thought that drove the first movie, but it still isn’t bad in my opinion. It marks a bit of a drop-off in quality, but not nearly to the same degree as your typical sequel.
Cohen is wise to not show too much of the babies in “It Lives Again,” just like he did with “It’s Alive.” As good as Rick Baker’s work is, it provides better tension to show less of them, and they inherently look a little bit ridiculous. Thankfully, they are mostly kept in shadows, blurs, and silhouettes.
Overall, this is a worthy follow-up if you really liked the original “It’s Alive.” Some people will certainly find it boring because of its comparatively slower pacing, but I think there is still plenty to like here. If you are up for a story about murderous babies, “It Lives Again” certainly delivers that.