Overview: A man discovers humans are being replaced by identical aliens and must find a way to stop the invasion. United Artists; 1978; 115 Minutes.
They’re Coming to Get You: Invasion of the Body Snatchers instills a sense of creeping dread throughout the entirety of the film. Scene after scene, background characters are running away from something audiences can’t see. Blank, expressionless characters stare at our protagonists as they walk around, unaware of this scrutiny. The director, Philip Kaufman, keeps it in the background for a while, but it can’t be held there for long. Donald Sutherland plays Matthew Bennell, a health inspector in love with his co-worker played by Brooke Adams. Their interactions are effective, and their banter and flirting comes across naturally. It is her asshole husband who’s pod-personing alerts them to the threat of an invasion. An invasion, if you will, of the body takers.
A Great Remake?: Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a remake of the 1956 film of the same name, and it is that rarest of creatures, a great remake. Even good remakes are hard, a notion that was proven in 2007 when the remake of the remake (The Invasion) was released. It was universally considered to be, without wanting to be melodramatic, a crime against humanity. However, Body Snatchers pulls it off by paying homage to the original but also updating it, moving away from the fear of McCarthyism that pervades the original and focusing more on a ’70s distrust of government and paranoia following Watergate and Vietnam.
Angry Mobs: Something this version enhances is the scale of the invasion. The scenes of Kevin McCarthy (star of the ’56 original) being chased down by a mob through downtown San Francisco are terrifying as we realise the extent of the invasion. Later scenes showing the mobs of screaming pod people hunting down our heroes are especially haunting. We see the mobs grow and drag other people into their midst like a fire engulfing a forest, turning each tree into fuel.
I Love You, Ben Burtt: The sounds in this movie were created by Ben Burtt. My love for Burtt has been discussed previously, but I’ll just add that his pod person screams (created by recording pig squeals) and the slow erasure of background noise throughout the movie until only the noise of the factories and machines remain, are works of genius that he can add to his massive wall of genius works.
Overall: A fantastic horror film. As my earlier article about The Exorcist can attest, I love slow horror films. I like build-up; I like the terror to slowly surround me like wolves around a stranded hiker until there is nothing but terror all around, and the only way out is through it. This movie takes its time to create a truly insidious invasion, slowly putting the pieces atop each other until we don’t know who to trust and who’s out to get us. And the ending of this movie? If it doesn’t linger with you afterwards, then chances are you might be a pod person, and it’s already too late.