Thursday, 5 October 2017

31 Days of Horror: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Today, we feature a remake of a 1950's classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers follows a group of people in San Francisco who learn that the population is slowly being replaced by aliens as they fight against the silent invasion. Like The Thing from Another World, it's on the sci-fi end of the sci-fi horror genre but definitely frightening. Why don't we see what Jay thinks?

I was familiar with the original when the remake came out so I knew what I was getting into. About twenty years had passed between the two, though, and effects had moved on a long way. The improved effects made the 1978 version a much better movie. Originally, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a B-movie but, by 1978, it had became a first-class, slick film.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers came out at the beginning at the video boom. As a kid, I would save my lunch money to rent videos so my friends and I could watch movies after school, most of them horror movies, of course.

I'm enjoying the tales of your childhood, almost as much as I'm enjoying our stroll through horror history. One day soon, I wanna talk about how the horror genre has changed from when you were a kid but, for now, let's get back to why Invasion of the Body Snatchers is on this list.

Well, for starters, it has a very good cast, with five or six superior actors. Actors like Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum. 

Jeff Goldblum is the star of the movie, for me. He can irritate the hell out of anyone on screen so it was fun to watch him go to work on Bennell and Kibner is a lot of fun.

Hah. Right. But Invasion of the Body Snatchers has more than just brilliant actors. It also has an interesting premise. A society without emotion, where everyone is the same? That has to appeal on some level, like a utopia.

One person's utopia is is another person's dystopia. A society without emotion? No, thank you.

That's the point, I think. Before, you used the phrase "silent invasion". That's what makes Invasion of the Body Snatchers work so well as a horror movie. 

Because these aliens don't just fly in with big ass ships and laser guns, right? They creep in, sort of through the back door, and before you know it, they're everywhere.

Exactly. A silent invasion. The idea of loved ones becoming cold and distant terrifies us all. These aliens, they are our relatives and yet... They're not. This does a couple of things for Invasion of the Body Snatchers. First, it creates a fear of aliens that looks like us. Can we trust the people that we trust? Secondly, it creates a fear of falling asleep. If we let ourselves fall asleep, will we still be us when we wake up? Very effective.

Did Invasion of the Body Snatchers scare you?

I'll tell you the part that did. You know the bum that's always got his dog with him? Then, they put him in the pod but the pod can't differentiate between dog and human so the dog ends up with the man's head? That terrified the shit out of me.

Sorry... I'm not laughing, really. I might have a costume idea for our dogs, though...


Sorry. Right. The parts of the film that really worked for me were the camera angles and the sound effects. The sound effects/score were right out of a sci-fi movie but they were, I don't know, kind of discordant and wrong. They set my teeth on edge, which I'm sure was very deliberate. The camera angles made me uneasy as well. In places, they're skewed, just a little off. That's a straight up horror trick and I've never seen it not work. Everything about the way this film as scored and shot was done to make you feel uncomfortable.

I also really love the build-up. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is kind of like the remake of Dawn of the Dead, in a way. As it starts, you have all this foreshadowing, all these clues that shit's going down but the main characters are so wrapped up in their own lives that they just don't see it until it's too late. There's that silent invasion again.

And, although it was made in the Seventies and you've got the Seventies fashion, cars, and buildings going on, it hasn't really dated. It could have happened yesterday. It could be happening right now. 

And it's so subtle that you can see Elizabeth and Bennell struggling with those thoughts you know we'd all have. Is there really something going on here or is it just me? Is it all in my head?

It might be all in your head, but that's a different issue...

I want to talk about the ending before the pod people come for me too. If you've seen both the 50's version and the 70's version, you know the movie has two very different endings. I think this one works much better. 

At the end of the original, the humans are fighting back. At the end of this one, you get the feeling humanity is lost. It's chilling, when Bennell turns around and you realise they've had him too. No happy endings here and that makes for great horror. 

There was some debate, when we were making this list, over whether Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Faculty should make it. I voted for The Faculty, maybe because it was more my generation, but you opted for this one and I couldn't argue with the point you made. Want to explain?

It's all about scale. The Faculty is a good movie, for certain, but it's just one school in one town. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is global and that alone makes it more frightening. 

Thanks for sticking with us so far. There are a lot more horror movies to come as we count UP to Halloween. Come back tomorrow to see which movie we've chosen for Day 6 of our 31 Days of Horror special feature.

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