There is certainly much to justify Buchanans reputation when it comes to It's Alive!. The worst thing in the film is the masosaurus creature, which is seemingly made out of towelling cloth and the good old Buchanan standby of ping-pong eyeballs. Amidst a bad cast, former Disney teen star Tommy Kirk gives a performance that is fascinatingly awful to watch. He plays with these cringing facial contortions that are in no way relevant to the emotion required after seeing the monster for the first time his reaction is to spend about five minutes shaking his head while crying in a nasal whine, Its unbelievable.
Almost despite itself, It's Alive! has a strangely obsessive atmosphere to it. Buchanans opening Twilight Zone (1959-63)-esque narration, as his camera drifts through the familiar yet offsettingly strange Ozark locations, filled with dark woods and peculiar dinosaur shapes in the fields, almost achieves something poetic in its peculiar banality. There is a captivating voiceover on the soundtrack: For Leslie Stearns and her husband Norman it was another day in a cross-country tour. But as they entered the Ozark Plateau, an ominous feeling invaded the privacy of the car, a feeling that intensified with each turn of the winding highway. There were reassurances from time to time usually in the form of a familiar landmark. But soon these were behind them and it began to rain. There is a legend in these hills that when it rains and sunshines at the same time the Devil is kissing his wife. And speaking of the Devil ... Look Norman! An exclamation at something out of time, out of place. Then a simple request to explore another in the strange oddities that dot the roadside of a thousand highways. Oddities that beckon the traveller to stop and see. But terror knows no time or place and jeopardy can hide behind rain or shine. And if Norman Stearns knew what danger lay, screened by an Ozark forest, he would never have left the highway.
The most fascinating sequence is the long, narrated flashback where Annabelle Macadams tells how she became Corveth Ousterhouses prisoner. Here Bucahanan achieves a genuinely Sadian weirdness in the scenes of the sweaty Ousterhouse serving her up dead mice and blowing whistles as she sleeps. The sequence ends on a slow-motion chase through the forest before she is recaptured and the haunting final voiceover: With each lash of his belt, I felt my will to live slipping away and myself becoming one of Grevys animals. The peculiar atmosphere the film achieves at these times makes this the best amid Buchanans otherwise eminently forgettable output.
It's Alive! should not be confused with Larry Cohens better known killer mutant baby film Its Alive (1974) and sequels.
Full film available online here:-