What’s It About? Back in 1956, Don Siegel directed a movie that went on to gain cult status amongst science fiction fans. This was the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter. Based on a novel by Jack Finney, Body Snatchers told the dark and menacing tale of an alien invasion where people were replaced by emotionless duplicates. Whether seen as an anti-politics story, an analysis of human existence or just a simple sci-fi story, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers remains to this day a movie that is hugely significant in cinema history.
Twenty years later, Philip Kaufman took on the difficult role of remaking the movie for a whole new audience. Things had shifted a lot in that time in America and so the question was whether it would work thematically anymore, and if touching such a prized story was a wise idea. Remakes are part and parcel of Hollywood and were happening years before Body Snatchers was ever touched, yet still this was a daring move that could have easily backfired as many do. Thankfully the 1978 version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers certainly did the source material justice and didn’t ruin the original cinematic version either.
Starring a Who’s Who of the silver screen, Body Snatchers doesn’t stray far from the original in terms of ideology or the overbearing feeling of tension and fear. It’s a creepy and unsettling movie that really puts you on the edge of your seat. Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games) plays Matthew Bennell, the movie’s hero who works alongside Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) at the San Francisco health department. Bennell tries to help Driscoll through her paranoia at her husband behaving differently recently, even sending her to a psychiatrist Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek). Of course, what starts as a seemingly routine mental health problem unravels pretty quickly into something far greater and more sinister.
What follows is a tension-filled tale of terror as Matthew fights to protect his friends, including Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park) and his wife Nancy (Veronica Cartwright, Alien). Without knowing for sure who is real and who has been copied, Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers plays on the fears of social conformity and being forced to lose all individuality. It’s a thrilling ride from start to finish, as many of the late 70s sci-fi and horror movies were. They couldn’t rely on huge budgets and special effects, yet still managed to be effective in ways modern movies could only dream of.
Verdict: With an A-grade cast and a story that never fails to terrify, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers manages to justify itself as a remake by getting right to the heart of its audience. As good as the original was, it was almost before its time and the remake benefits from being a few decades later in cinematic terms. The remake might be a little more on the nose and lack the occasional subtlety of the original, but it’s no worse for it. It definitely takes the visual terror up a few notches from what was possible in the 50s, with many similarities in style to something like The Fly, which Goldblum fans will be familiar with.
The movie looks incredible with the 1080p transfer and really highlights the efforts the crew went to with their visual style. It manages to capture the claustrophobia and the panic everyone experiences. As for the unique sound effects, these pop at you and scare you with ease in so many scenes that you’ll be a nervous wreck by the end. Invasion Of The Body Snatchers really is a rare case of a complete package.
Extras: Unsurprisingly, Arrow Video come up with the goods again. Not only is there the usual trailer, as well as collector’s booklet, sleeve and audio commentary, but plenty of features to watch as well. Critic Kim Newman and filmmakers Ben Wheatley and Norman J. Warren take part in a panel discussion of the movie, while Jack Seabrook is interviewed about the original novel. Also there are featurettes on the making of the film, the sound effects, the cinematography and more. Arrow couldn’t have done a better job here.
Final Words: Having never seen the remake previously, I was certainly sceptical. Remakes can be either pointless or manage to make a decent story worse. Yet here, Kaufman knows exactly what he’s doing and uses what’s available to him to make arguably the best version of Body Snatchers out there. There will always be debate about that, but certainly this remake can stand proudly side by side with the original as an exemplary tale of science fiction, and one of the best cinematic tales of all time. You won’t look at people the same way again after this.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is released on Blu-ray on 18 November 2013.