Quick recap: A small town gets invaded by aliens (typical) who grow and harvest pods who sprout people (not so typical). The people are the exact duplicates of residents in the town, except devoid of any emotion and with a penchant for getting up early on Saturday morning.
Fun (?) fact: The film originally had a much grimmer ending, with the doctor running into traffic and yelling, ‘You’re next!’. Not wanting to offend the delicate sensibilities of the audience, the movie was given a more optimistic (lame) ending.
My thoughts: By today’s standards for horror as well as alien invasion, this movie was rather tame. There were never any moments that frightened me, although the pods spewing people was a little creepy. However, after finishing the movie and then allowing myself time to let everything sink in, I realized just how unsettling Invasion of the Body Snatchers is. That’s really rare for a film to do that, since most horror movie moments that frighten us tend to vanish once daylight hits. Going back to my childhood fear of aliens for a moment, I used to wake up from nightmares frantically searching for a clock because I remembered reading that most abductions happened between 1 and 3 in the morning. I knew that if I could just survive until 3, I’d be alright. And then the next morning, I would feel incredibly silly for believing something like that. But this movie is different. Daylight seemed to highlight just how wrong everything was and made me question what was real.
My favorite scene of the movie happens when Dr. Bennell and Becky glance out the window and see practically the whole town awake and moving about, even though it was only 7 in the morning on a Saturday. It was one of those moments that seemed a little off but grew into a more unsettling feeling as the characters realized how wrong everything was. As in the beginning of the movie, the duplicates were impossible to detect, and yet loved ones knew something was not right. The boy at the beginning who runs away because he thinks his mother has been replaced is later seen hugging her and smiling. No one had to mention anything to know that the invasion had happened, but watching that brief scene said it all and made it all the more frightening. The subtle horror moments are what really makes Invasion of the Body Snatchers stand out.
My one criticism comes not from the movie itself, but from the (I believe) over analyzation of the plot. As most of us know, the 50’s signified the heyday of McCarthyism and the Red Scare. It’s impossible to sit through this movie and not think about that. However, trying to write off this movie as a metaphor for its time really does the bigger theme a disservice. The invasion of ideas, good or bad, can be frightening no matter the time period. I am currently reading Maus by Art Spiegelman, a graphic novel about the Holocaust. I could easily compare the alien invasion to the quick rise of Nazism, how seemingly nice, well adjusted people suddenly turned on each other and became the monsters we know of today. Or, I could compare Invasion of the Body Snatchers to a comment forum in an online article- how the discussion starts civil and soon turns into a mess of racial slurs, sexist remarks, and threats of violence. Seemingly normal people become devoid of emotion and have no guilt at what they are saying. My point being that this movie is best viewed as a constant reminder of how quickly things-and people- can change.
Final review: 4/5. Not scary, but a truly significant film
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