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Worth A Look: 33.33%
Average: 2.38%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 4.76%

2 reviews, 30 user ratings

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
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by MP Bartley

"Who are you and why are you looking at me like that?"
5 stars

"People are strange when you're a stranger" sang The Doors once, and there couldn't be a truer statement applied to the trilogy of Bodysnatcher films. The trilogy of films also have the distinction of being 2 re-makes of an original that all manage to match up the excellence of the first. But it's Philip Kaufman's version that probably just shades it as the best over Don Siegels original 1950's classic and Abel Ferrara's 90's update.

There's also a view that the two re-makes are in fact sequels in all but name to the original. This could be seen as particularly true for the 70's version as the hero of the original (Kevin McCarthy) makes a cameo appearance, reprising his original role by running across the San Francisco streets screaming "They're here! It's happening!"

In the 70's version however, the invasion of pod-people is updated from a sleepy suburban town to the wider scale of a bustling city, and just as the original worked superbly well as an allegory of Communist 'reds-under-the-beds' subversion, so the 70's version works as a satire on the facelessness of city life. How can you trust your neighbour if you don't even know who your neighbour is? It's a question raised in a film that touches on the theme of feeling isolated in a sea of unfriendly faces in a city.

Our heros in this update consist of public health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland), his assistant he's quietly obsessed with, Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) and their small group of friends - published psychiatrist David (Leonard Nimoy) and bohemian couple, Jack and Nancy (Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright). Elizabeth is the first to raise suspicions as her boyfriend Geoffrey becomes cold and distant and David reports a rise in similar reports from his patients. After discovering a plague of strange unknown flowers have covered the city, the group soon realise that the invasions already underway and it's becoming harder and harder to know who to trust.

Whereas the 50's version relied on typical horror genre thrills and the 90's version reflected on the body horror of the theme, the 70's version goes much more for a whispering, seductive atmosphere of fear and paranoia. This is accomplished from the outset with strange, creepy scenes of seeds floating through space to Earth before embedding themselves into the local flora.
Kaufman's direction is superb throughout, creating a constant aura of unease. His camera looms in at strange angles, he casts whole scenes in dark or shadows, passer-bys and extras are pressed up against windows or walls for no reason other than to incessantly un-nerve. The direction isn't being strange merely for the sake of being strange, but to constantly throw the audience into a queasy state of tension as they try to work out who's human and who's not.
This atmosphere is brilliantly maintained til the final half-hour, which must rank as one of the most terrifying climaxes, full of shock betrayals, narrow escapes and heroic self-sacrifice as the beleaguered group realise just how big the invasion has grown (and indeed how big it's in the process of becoming).

Intertwined with Kaufman's direction is a superb, unsettling score full of electronic buzzes and squelches, designed to again to make the audience uneasy and make them think "What the hell is that? Is that music or something in the background?". Combine that with naturalistic sound and the 70's vogue for gritty, washed-out realism in the cinematography, and you have a grimly created sense of true panic and alienation within a human background. No wonder this film is one that will still make you sleep with the lights on. I watched it last night for about the 10th time for this review and I still had nightmares about close friends and family not being themselves...

The cast also commit themselves to believable, terrified performances. Sutherland has never been the most charming or handsome actors but he has an awkward, lop-sided quality to him that just holds your attention and gives the film a much needed human centre. Adams is also a sympathetic lead, as the first to click that something's not quite right in the city, and Nimoy, Goldblum and Cartwright all give performances that ring true and shock all the more when some inevitably turn out to be not who they say they are. There's not a lot that 'Invasion of the Bodysnatchers' gets wrong in it's creation or casting, simply because Kaufman knows that the greater horror is in the smaller details, and it's the attention paid to the basic and small details that will freak and creep you out right until the end.

And speaking of the end, this is one final shot that is right up there with 'Carrie' and 'Friday the 13th' for bleak, stark endings.

Although any of the versions are well worth your time watching, the 70's version is the one that frightens the most and resonates the best today. It's a plausible and terrifying vision of a city under siege before its inhabitants are even aware of it, and no wonder there's talk of a fourth version. If that becomes reality however it's going to have a lot to live up to. Just have a look at the person next to you, go on...Are they really human or have they already been taken over? The scary thing is, you'll never know til it's too late...

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originally posted: 03/31/04 00:10:24
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Horror Remakes: For more in the Horror Remakes series, click here.

User Comments

5/11/18 FireWithFire WHY SF is the shit hole that it is now....and where the Leftists responsible came from 1 stars
10/30/16 morris campbell solid remake disturbing ending 4 stars
3/22/09 james obrien just seen it again holds up well 4 stars
3/08/09 Linda Diaz This remake is the best, loved the ending! 5 stars
2/26/09 BillGuitar I have never, EVER forgotten this one. Who was in the original? That screeeeech!!!! 5 stars
1/15/09 R.W. Welch Still prefer the original, tho not by much. 4 stars
10/25/08 action movie fan a good remake equal in some ways to the 1956 film 4 stars
4/16/08 art THIS 1978 VERISON IS THE BEST 4 stars
2/14/07 Double M Creepy, disturbing and paranoid with a *beep* haunting ending. great scary fun... 5 stars
1/11/07 Michael Cox Fantastic, and yes it is the definitive version 5 stars
10/19/06 David Pollastrini not great, not terrible 3 stars
7/12/06 David Cohen Compares favorably to the original 5 stars
9/03/05 ES Gotta love Paranoia, this was a great movie and holds up well under today's microscope 5 stars
6/17/05 Jeff Anderson The ONLY worthwhile remake to date! Excellent direction, acting, music & special effects. 5 stars
12/03/04 Chris Wright A must-see for conspiracy-buffs and SF-fans. 5 stars
5/10/04 John holds up so well! scary and makes the concept belivable 5 stars
4/17/04 ALBERT H. TAYLOR JR. It was better than the original. 5 stars
4/14/04 slayathon Pod People Who Knew This Could Be So Fun? 4 stars
3/30/04 Whadisay? A rare creature: A remake that measures up to the original 4 stars
3/04/03 Jack Sommersby An unnerving near-masterpiece of horror. Superb performances and technicals. 5 stars
3/02/03 V. Salvatore Discard nostalgia...this is better than the original 5 stars
10/20/02 John McKain Would rather have an alien stick his head up my ass then watch this movie again 1 stars
10/14/02 Charles Tatum C'mon, Kaufman, do some more horror! 5 stars
9/02/02 y2mckay need to see it again before I can give a coherent review, but it's better than the original 4 stars
1/27/02 Andrew Carden Better Then The Original. Great Acting, Great Screenplay. 5 stars
11/06/01 Destruction Worker Picking flowers is deadly! 5 stars
9/29/01 Palaboy THEY GET YOU WHEN YOU SLEEP!!! 5 stars
2/15/01 viking A remake that improves on the original 5 stars
10/12/00 Matt Bennell Maybe not as good as the 1956 version, but they re-made it perfectly. Scary ending 5 stars
5/30/00 Rod This is a film I will always remember. This is truely a well done timeless classic sci-fi 5 stars
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  02-Nov-1978 (PG)



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