INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, Phillip Kauffman (1978)

Whenever I see or hear about Donald Sutherland can’t help but thinking of this movie, it completely shocked me when I was a kid and still gives me the creeps.

Had in mind to review it again and I was lucky on Friday that in the middle of a mini buying-spree the DVD was there, cheap and lonely waiting for me to pick it up.  And first Sunday I’ve been vegetating, recovering from a friendly hangover, it’s been my choice for the first session in the afternoon.

The story has been adapted many times and at this point, anyway, due to certain details and the way the story is developed, has turned this film into a sci-fi horror classic, no matter it’s a remake and shares this status with the original. I particularly prefer this one.

San Francisco is invaded by a silent and unnoticeable parasite from outer space, which takes the form of an exotic flower with the aim of clonating human bodies in order to survive. The new human forms duplicate the originals exactly, however lack of feelings such as love, fear or pain awakes actual human beings suspicions.

In fact, Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams), completely shocked by her husband’s sudden change in behavior runs to her friend Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) for support and advice. What seems something closer to paranoia becomes a terrible living nightmare affecting all society at light speed. Survival will be the main target for those whose bodies haven’t been snatched yet, but the risk is huge and chances are decreasing every second.

It’s very remarkable the pessimistic tone of the film. Decadence and desperation are constant, not only because society is becoming emotionless real fast, but the settings chosen, apart from labs, are dirty and cold: the bohemian party where everyone pretends to have fun, suddenly interrupted by a hysteric woman, the mud baths place managed by Nancy Bellicec (Veronica Cartwright) with disgusting clients or the downtown neighborhood with all the XXX theatres…society is falling apart and if you really think about it, thanks to the snatchers, it would keep people on the same line with no ups and downs nor class difference.

Nevertheless, and even though we are not aware of it on a daily basis, human being tries to survive just to keep their feelings alive. Word Love is constantly used as a proof for feelings, and you could think fighting for survival means keeping love and trust, justice and goodness alive, but also means saving fear, despair and anger, thus, at the end of the day, what’s the point in fighting if you could keep your body alive despite your feelings are vanished.

We, people, don’t care much for each other, in fact we are selfish and are constantly stepping over the weaker ones to be successful or get what we want. However, when something threatens a global welfare state, seems that we join each other and become supportive with the others. We can be such hypocrites!

Seems that Invasion of the Body Snatchers contains more message that we apparently perceive when watching the movie. In a certain way it reminds me of Soylent Green and some other sci-fi movies dealing with the fall of the human civilization. It might had to do with the end of the hippie times, from positive flower power mood to a hopeless view of life, from Jefferson Airplane to Black Sabbath in music terms (just kidding, friends!). You get the idea, right?

Changing of subject and focusing a little bit more into more technical features of the film, I find quite interesting the importance of sound effects in the film in order to cause anxiety and uneasiness effect on the audience. From music, to the roots of the “parasites” growing into people bodies, to the duplicated citizens crying out to catch those not yet converted. Yes,  sound is really creepy here.

I have no idea whether special effects were expensive or not, what I can tell, from my point of view is that they accomplish the target of stressing and making people shit on their pants. The scene at the mud baths with Jeff Goldblum in the middle of his replacement is outstanding, so does the moment when Bennell is taking a nap in the garden and is surrounded by the four or five bodies growing up in order to substitute them…Oh My God! Those scenes kept recorded in my mind since I was a kid and still  I shit on my pants everytime.

It’s my understanding Invasion of the Body Snatchers is considered a classic when relating to horror and sci-fi films and I really agree with that. Supported by an impressive cast of characters including freak Leonard Nimoy, this film is terrific and powerful, with a closing scene impossible to forget at all. 

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