Film Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978

Director: Philip Kaufman
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jess Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy
Duration: 115 minutes

As one must often plough through countless shoddy films hoping to unearth a gem that makes the digging worthwhile, I have always felt being a dedicated horror fan requires a certain level of optimism. Despite this, even the longest veteran of the genre must have their positivity tested when hearing news of an old favourite being plundered for a quick buck. However, for every worthless The Omen, The Wicker Man or Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake it must be remembered that we also have the glorious The Thing, Maniac and, a personal favourite, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Directed by Philip Kaufman, the film moves the action from the small town of the original to a gritty San Francisco where alien vegetation falls from the sky and blossoms into mysterious pods. Donald Sutherland plays a diligent health inspector that gradually learns these pods create replicas of people and replaces them, only now they are completely devoid of emotion. The strong supporting cast boasts geek royalty Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy as well as The Dead Zone’s Brooke Adams and Alien‘s Veronica Cartwright. As the extraterrestrial menace grows the group must band together to survive, whilst hoping that none of them are replaced with the alien doppelgangers.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978The first movie had its roots in the Second Red Scare of the 50’s, when people feared communism and its apparent loss of personal choice. This is updated with the paranoia of the 70’s following the wake of the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, where great civil unrest was felt on the streets of the cities. The movie plays on the fear of a danger lurking behind the veil of society, beginning with long, chilling stares from numerous pedestrians that follow the group as they begin to discover the true scale and horror of the situation. Whilst the pod-people assimilate deeper into society any strong emotion shown in opposition by the characters is futile as it reveals them as a target, before finally no-one can be trusted and no-one can help.

Aside from the unceasing paranoia the movie has ample shocks, from the sleeping bodies that gradually decompose as the pods drain their life, to a body swap that goes wrong creating a disconcerting mutation. Perhaps most memorable of all is the blood-curdling scream that the pod-people emit when they discover someone who is not one of their own, a sound that should be as iconic as the violin stabs in Psycho and the motion-tracker in Aliens. Since this adaptation it has been remade twice and whilst both efforts fail to match Kaufman’s work similar themes are seen in 1998’s enjoyable The Faculty, showing that when done right a story can be retold so it not only entertains a new generation but satisfies the old.

Verdict: 5 out of 5

Written by Tom Connelly

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