Gimme Something to Watch: It’s Alive 3: Island of the Alive (1987)
What do you do with a mess of mutant babies? Dump ’em on an island!
I’m generally a big proponent of doing things in an orderly fashion. I listen to my albums start to finish. I cannot bring myself jump into a film I’ve never seen at a random point during a tv broadcast, and I struggle to imagine starting a trilogy at the second or third entry. I am, however, also generally a giant idiot, which brings us to It’s Alive.
If you’ve never heard of it, It’s Alive is a horror film by the magnificent Larry Cohen (The Stuff, God Told Me To) about a couple’s infant that turns out to be a mutant that kills when scared. The first sequel, It Lives Again, follows a new couple about to have their own mutant baby, but there’s a twist: this is an issue that’s now nation wide, and there are three of these murderous moppets on the rampage. While both of these movies are great and absolutely worth your time, it’s the third and final entry of this freaky killer baby trilogy that truly stole my heart. From the title, It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive, to the nutso poster it should be obvious that this film is going to be well worth your time, but that’s just the beginning.
The story of part 3 is that the mutant baby problem has somehow gotten even worse. A woman gives birth to one in a cab only to have the cab driver recognize the mutant and, without hesitation, pulls out a revolver and unloads on the mother and child. Cut to a courtroom where a father, Stephen Jarvis (the always fantastic Michael Moriarty, but more on him in a bit) is pleading with a judge not to have his mutant child taken into custody with the four(!) others that the government has to be murdered. Following some courtroom baby shenanigans and a demonstration that the child isn’t inherently violent, the judge decides that the children can’t be killed, but that they’ll never be able to integrate into society. This of course leads us to the logical endpoint of dropping these five mutated infants on a remote island where they can never harm anyone.
Naturally that isn’t even close to what happens, as the people responsible these mutations find out where they are and stage a murder party. Unfortunately for them, they wind up being the ones being murdered in increasingly ridiculous fashion ultimately culminating with one of the children stowing away on a helicopter and killing the pilot, somehow causing the whole thing to explode in midair (!!!). It fucking rules.
Now that all of that admittedly great stuff is out of the way,the film is free to focus on its true highlight: Michael Moriarty as Stephen Jarvis, a father whose life is spiraling out of control following the extremely public trial over his mutant son. Since my first viewing of The Stuff it has been my opinion that Moriarty is a national treasure, and It’s Alive III only reinforces this. He moves and speaks with the aloofness of someone a few margaritas deep who just happened to stumble onto the set. As the film goes on you may even wonder if he ever had a copy of the script or if he just ad libbed his way through the entire thing. This isn’t to say that the man can’t get serious. He oozes distress and seethes at his opposition in the courtroom, and his dejection after losing his son infects every aspect of the following scenes. Any time that he’s on screen he’s an absolute joy to watch, the fact that he spends half of the movie palling around with fully grown mutants just adds to the ridiculous delight of it all.
Did I say fully grown? Yes, I did. Five years after the mutants slaughtered their creators another crew sets out to the island to find the children and they want to bring Moriarty along to try to calm them. As it turns out five years is all it takes for these children to become fully grown and procreate (MIRACLES). This trip to island goes about as well as the first, only Moriarty survives and befriends the mutants. Well, sort of befriends them. The mutants are really just using him because they need someone who can drive a boat and take them to civilization so they can attempt to find their mothers, and Moriarty, still protective of his son, obliges as any good mutant’s father would.
I’m not going to go over every plot point because the entire movie is so delightfully bizarre that it’s best to just experience it and receive the full effect of the what-the-fuck-ness unfolding before you. If you’re a fan of the ridiculous, Larry Cohen, mutated and vascular infants and/or forgotten gems then you owe it to yourself to check Island of the Alive. I guarantee you’ve spent $3 on worse, Michael Moriarty-less things.