Body Snatchers

Reviewed By MP Bartley
Posted 04/15/04 00:07:25

"Surprisingly, for a remake of a remake it doesn't suck balls."
3 stars (Average)

That's even more surprising when you consider the pedigree of its predecessors. Don Siegels 50's original is an early sci-fi classic and Philip Kaufmans 70's update is one of the flat-out scariest films ever made. Abel Ferrara's 90's version is no classic and never really fries the nerves, but is an engaging and creepy twist on the familiar tale.

This time, after a nifty and freaky title sequence, we're on a 90's army base where 17 year old Marti (Gabrielle Anwar) has been forced to relocate with her younger brother and wicked step-mother (Meg Tilly), while her doctor father (Terry Kinney) tests the camp waters for pollution from the army camps handy collection of toxic chemicals. And as with the first 2 movies, our heroine becomes slowly aware that not everyone is as they seem on the army base. Hmm, environmental pollution, unfeeling soldiers being transformed into unfeeling aliens...can we smell the social commentary here people?

If you view the three bodysnatcher films as a chain of sequels, instead of remakes, it's easy to see whereabouts Ferraras version lies. The 50's version was the beginning of the invasion, attacking suburban America; while by the 70's the invasion had spread to the big cities. In the 90's it seems that there's only small, unaware outposts of humanity left. Unfortunately, this scaling-down also scales down the tension. There were big scares in the 70's version because of the very nightmarish scenario of living in a city populated by bodysnatchers. That concept doesn't work anymore sadly when it's relegated to a much smaller setting. Also, there's little background as to where the bodysnatchers have come from, what they are and to how far the invasion has spread. For anyone who's not seen either of the first two, it could be more than a little confusing.

But Ferrara does litter the film with chilling little clues that suggests that something's not...quite...right. A human set of teeth lie discarded on the ground, the camp children robotically paint the same meaningless picture at their nursery, screaming soldiers are bundled off in the middle of the night. It's these little moments that help to maintain a freaky atmosphere of its own. Anwar is a spunky and non-annoying heroine who gives the film the human centre it always needs, and Meg Tilly is great as the step-mother who you just know is going to be one of the first to be 'snatched. It's these performances that help elevate 'Bodysnatchers' from the status of 'rip-off'.

But at a meagre running time of just under 90 minutes you can't help but think, that some plot development or tension building was stripped away. As well as the lack of explanation behind the bodysnatchers, it also switches unconvincingly from little suggestions of horror, to full-on running away from the aliens mode in a matter of minutes. A little more build-up would have made it much more effective. And although the final ten minutes are quite gleefully nasty (trust no-one!), it loses some of the effect when it turns into 'Rambo in a helicopter'.

Ultimately though, Ferrara lenses the films with scowling oranges and greens that suggests something nasty is about to happen to paper over these cracks in the plots. And like it's two parent films 'Bodysnatchers' ends on a shivery note of pessimism. I'm a sucker for bleak and nasty endings and the bodysnatcher films have three of the best.

Make no mistake, this is no forgotten classic here and it can't really compare with the two before it, but with a snappy little running time it doesn't hurt to watch it. And it's far better than any of 'The Faculty' shit.

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