Friday, September 6, 2013

Movie Review: "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers" (1978)

Horror movies are quite different from most other films.

For one, they rely completely on one emotion: Fear. Not to mention this is a feeling which not everyone regularly uses. Whereas other films, like dramas or adventures, have an entire canvas of emotions and feelings, from exciting to heartbreaking.

Another would be something that horror films share with comedies, in that most of them lack any repeatability. Or at the very least, the bad ones do. Once you know what’s coming and where the scares and jokes are, you don’t or even can’t find it frightening or laughable any longer, thus making it nearly impossible to watch a second time.

Not only should a good horror or comedy rely on a multitude of emotions, but should also offer up something which would make it worth watching multiple times without getting boring or tedious.

“Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” is such a horror film, as it presents scenes that not only scare or creep the audience out, but also has an emotional core that makes the audience root for the characters and their struggle to remain alive. 

The film is a remake of a 1956 sci-fi/horror movie, which was more-or-less meant to make a point about the growing concern of Communism in America at the time. How it removed the individual of their passions and emotions and made them one with the collective and their goals. The 1978 film keeps that idea intact, while also improving upon it without targeting any one group of people.

Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) notices one morning that her boyfriend has become rather distant and less passionate about everything, even his love of basketball, to the point where she thinks someone has replaced him. She takes this to her boss and close friend, Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland), who tries to comfort her without making her out to be crazy. It isn’t until Matthew notices several other cases of this happening around town that he begins to investigate and finds duplicates with white tendrils being made of anyone who falls asleep. Now Matthew and Elizabeth must try to do something before all of San Francisco and the world is replaced with these alien duplicates.

Something noteworthy about the film is the use of visuals throughout and how silent the film acts at times. There are several scenes that have little to no audio, and especially music and dialogue, simply letting the pictures speak for themselves. This works to the films’ benefit, since horrifying imagery and lack of human emotions of the replicants works much better with the eerie lack of sound. Not to mention emotional moments between characters when they’re in the heat of an intense scene and they just share quick glances into each others eyes.

However, the lack of dialogue also works against the film at times. Because there are so many scenes that remain silent, some elements of the story go unexplained. For example, there is no explanation why the aliens need to take over our bodies, copy our forms and destroy the original host body. It’s explained that they fled from their dying world and have been surviving ever since, but why do they feel the need to kill all sentient life on the planets which they invade? It’s certainly not to survive, since they could live on without killing us and taking our place.

As a result, many elements in “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” are left up to the audiences’ interpretation, especially the motivations of the aliens and how they’ll go about taking over the entire planet when just one city proved to be rather difficult.

I couldn’t help but notice some parallels between this story and “War Of The Worlds.” Though both are different in their approach and ultimate goals, both stories are told from the perspective of an average person trying to cope with the reality of the situation, rather than on a global scale. The aliens seek world domination for reasons that go unexplained, and their invasion plans involve plant life. It’s also weird that the Martians in “War Of The Worlds” were brought down by germs, which is how these particular aliens started out.

Overall, “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” is a unique paranoia inducing horror film with some wonderful moments that show the power of film as a visual medium. Even with all the alien moments, the film still maintains its emotional core between the two lead characters. Even if you’re not a fan of horror, this is still a movie worth checking out.

Final Grade: B+

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