Category Archives: Larry Cohen Collection

Spotlight on the works of legendary b-movie writer, director, and producer Larry Cohen.

Larry Cohen Collection: “It’s Alive” (2008)

“It’s Alive” (2008)

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The next installment in the Larry Cohen collection is the little-seen 2008 remake of the cult classic “It’s Alive.”

The screenplay credit for “It’s Alive” is not given just to Larry Cohen, but also to two other people: Paul Sopocy, who has no other major writing credits (outside of a few episodes of “Elvira’s Movie Macabre”), and producer James Portolese (“The Ledge,” “Simon Sez”). It is unclear exactly how much input Cohen’s screenplay draft had into the ultimate film product, but at one point he had planned on writing, directing, and producing the remake according to an oft-quoted interview. He has also openly and bitterly denounced the film in interviews since the release, claiming:

I did give them a script and they, more or less, ignored what I gave them completely. I did make a lot of money on the deal, so I really can’t complain. I certainly didn’t want to give them their money back, so I’ll just have to live with it. I would advise anybody who likes my film to cross the street and avoid seeing the new enchilada.

“It’s Alive” was directed by Josef Rusnak, who also worked on such features as “The Thirteenth Floor” and “Godzilla” (1998), the latter as an assistant director.

The effects team for “It’s Alive” included makeup artist Timothy Huizing (“Smokin’ Aces,” “Scary Movie 2,” “Jack & Jill”), as well as such visual effects workers as Simeon Asenov (“Shark Attack 3: Megalodon,” “Drive Angry,” “The Legend of Hercules”), Velichko Ivanov (“Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “Guardians of the Galaxy”), and Silviya Mariyanova (“Olympus Has Fallen,” “The Expendables 3”).

The cinematography for “It’s Alive” was provided by Wedigo Von Schultzendorff, a German director of photography who has worked on films such as “Igby Goes Down” and “Pandorum.”

The producers for “It’s Alive” included Mark Damon (“Mac and Me,” “Monster,” “Orgazmo”), Moshe Diamant (“Timecop,” “Simon Sez,” “Double Team,” “Dark Angel”), Boaz Davidson (“The Wicker Man,” “Mansquito,” “The Iceman”), Danny Dimbort (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Rambo,” “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans”), and Robert Katz (“Stuck,” “The Ambulance”), among others.

alive083The “It’s Alive” score was contributed by Nicholas Pike, who also composed music for other features, including “Captain Ron” and “C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud.”

The editing of “It’s Alive” was done by James Herbert, who has cut a number of Guy Ritchie films such as “RocknRolla” and “Revolver,” and Patrick McMahon of “The Shining” mini-series and “A Nightmare On Elm Street.”

The cast for “It’s Alive” includes Bijou Phillips (“Almost Famous,” “Choke”), James Murray (“Primeval”), Owen Teale (“Game of Thrones”), and Todd Jensen (“The Mangler”). The collection could generously be called “low-rent,” and honestly be called “weak,” something that is immensely clear from the peripheral performances.

alive082The story of “It’s Alive” centers around two young parents and their newborn child. At the child’s birth, the doctors and nurses are mysteriously murdered during the delivery, with no suspects or apparent motive. As the child becomes rapidly stranger and more violent, the parents are forced to confront the possibility that their baby is a serial killer.

“It’s Alive” was released straight to video by First Look Pictures, but was apparently given a very limited theatrical run specifically in the Philippines. In any case, I would be shocked if it made any money on its estimated $10 million budget.

“It’s Alive” was received very harshly, particularly by fans of the cult classic original. It currently holds a score of 3.5 on IMDb, and a Rotten Tomatoes audience rating of 6%. Larry Cohen himself went on record saying that the film was “a terrible picture…just beyond awful.”

There frankly isn’t a whole lot positive to say about “It’s Alive.” It features some inexplicably dreadful character and plot writing, which I assume is due to the inexperience of the two primary writers. There are also some awful performances as you get deeper into the accessory cast, such as the E.R. doctor who is slaughtered at the beginning of the film. I will say that Bijou Philips is not terrible, but her character’s writing just doesn’t make any sense. She never seems as disturbed as she should be by the events that happen throughout the film, and takes way too long to descend into panic over the baby’s violent outbursts. The effects overall are pretty cheesy (the baby is both ridiculous and wildly inconsistent), but the film doesn’t particularly look awful from a production standpoint, which is about all I can say for it.

alive081Overall, “It’s Alive” is just way off the mark from what it should have been. It lacks charm and thought, two qualities that distinguish Cohen’s films from most of the rest of the b-horror pack. I’m not sure what happened over the course of the production, but Cohen’s creative lock out seems like it doomed the effort out of the gate. There are a few decent deaths in the film, but the overall experience just isn’t fun or memorable enough to recommend.

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Larry Cohen Collection: “Full Moon High”

Full Moon High

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Today, I’m going to be kicking off my coverage of the career of writer/director Larry Cohen with 1981’s “Full Moon High”: a horror parody movie which he wrote, directed, and produced.

The cinematography on “Full Moon High” was provided by Daniel Pearl, whose career goes all the way back to “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” and includes a handful of other Larry Cohen films such as “Deadly Illusion,” “A Return to Salem’s Lot,” and “It’s Alive III.”

The score for “Full Moon High” was composed by Gary William Friedman, who is probably best known for providing the music to the television program “The Electric Company.”

“Full Moon High” features makeup effects by Steve Neill, who also worked on such b-movies as “Laserblast,” “God Told Me To,” “The Stuff,” “Battle Beyond The Stars,” and “Saturday the 14th.”

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The art director for “Full Moon High” was Robert Burns, who also worked on such iconic horror movies as “Re-Animator,” “The Howling,” “Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” and “The Hills Have Eyes” over his career.

The editor for “Full Moon High” was Armond Lebowitz, who was Larry Cohen’s go-to editor for many of his most well-known features, including “The Stuff,” “The Ambulance,” and “Q: The Winged Serpent.”

The cast for “Full Moon High” is led by Adam Arkin in his first major film role, who is best known as the son of acclaimed actor Alan Arkin. It features a lot of familiar faces in the accessory cast, including Ed McMahon (“The Tonight Show”), Kenneth Mars (“The Producers”), Pat Morita (“The Karate Kid”), Bob Saget (“Full House”), Demond Wilson (“Sanford and Son”), Roz Kelly (“New Year’s Evil”), and even Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “Argo,” “Catch-22”).

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The story of “Full Moon High” follows a high school football star who, while on a vacation to Romania, becomes an immortal werewolf. After he discovers how little control he has over his abilities, he leaves his hometown to wander the Earth. 20 years later, he decides to return home under the guise of being his own son in order to win the big high school football game that he never got to play.

“Full Moon High” was dedicated to the memory of Fenton Hamilton, who was Larry Cohen’s cinematographer and director of photography for “Black Caesar,” “It’s Alive,” “Hell Up In Harlem,” and “It Lives Again.”

The reception for “Full Moon High” was generally negative: it currently holds a 39% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, along with a 4.8 rating on IMDb.

The premise for “Full Moon High” is primarily a parody of “I Was A Teenage Werewolf,” a notorious 1950s horror movie. Most viewers now would probably assume some connection to the movie “Teen Wolf” with Michael J. Fox, but “Full Moon High” actually predated it by a number of years.

There are definitely some brilliant moments here and there throughout “Full Moon High,” but it is really uneven in its quality. As many reviewers have pointed out, the film starts really strong, and then slows down and loses its comedic edge after the first half hour. It feels like a clever movie that didn’t get to percolate long enough to be really outstanding, like it may have been rushed through production too quickly.

That said, there are a number of golden and clever moments interspersed throughout the film. For instance, the use of spinning newspaper transitions, which is one of the most overdone elements in old movies, is poked at brilliantly. There are also other horror and teen movie tropes that get put over the fire, like the overuse of dramatic violin music as a cue.

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Personally, I think that one of the biggest issues with the movie is that Adam Arkin isn’t quite strong enough to carry the film from a comedic point of view. It certainly doesn’t help that his character is pretty inconsistently written: sometimes he is a bit of a moron, and other times he seems pretty sharp.

The style of humor in “Full Moon High” is also a bit perplexing. It is generally dark and sexually charged, and fairly biting with satiric elements. At the same time, it is also very traditionally goofy, which makes for a weird combination. It also doesn’t help that it has a few awkward moments of jokes that don’t land, which might be due to Cohen not having comedy writing experience previously, and still deciding to write it on his own.

Here are a couple of the memorable quotes from “Full Moon High” that have stuck with me:

“I’m not the type to believe in vampires, werewolves, or virgins. I’ve never seen any of those.”

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“They got me Joe. The commies turned my son into a wolf. I don’t know how they did it…might have been something in the water? Fluoride…they say fluoride is good for your teeth. Did you get a load of his teeth? I’ve heard about being long in the tooth, but that’s just too long. Oh Joe, why didn’t they listen to you back then when they had a chance?”

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Overall, “Full Moon High” certainly isn’t is good as it could be, but it is undoubtedly more daring and clever that “Teen Wolf.” For big fans of Larry Cohen’s work, it is worth checking out, but it isn’t quite solid enough to recommend to general audiences.