It’s a serene evening as the Screening Room crew settles into their usual positions. Mad Mike appears to be hiding somewhere in the building, the radar dish he previously constructed is spinning much faster than usual. DJ TV has lit the candles in his small shrine and is drawing some bizarre symbols in what we can only hope is red ink. Foxx Jackson, who is currently in a relationship with headset #4, has unknowingly picked up headset #3 and is speaking to it. Headset #4 plots its revenge. As the clock rolls around to 7:00 pm, the crew looks over their shoulders nervously and prepares for “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
The 1978 remake of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” opens with some odd wisp-like organisms floating through space and eventually falling to earth. We are then introduced to Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) who works at the Department of Public Health in San Francisco with colleague Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland). Driscoll believes that her boyfriend is now someone else, in that he looks exactly the same, but he has become distant and essentially indifferent to Elizabeth. Driscoll and Bennell soon begin to notice this strange phenomena all over the city. Eventually they team up with Bennell’s friends Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), Jack Bellicec (Jeff Goldblum), and Bellicec’s wife, Nancy (Veronica Cartwright). Can they discover the cause of this strange behavior in increasingly large numbers of people or will they fall prey to it themselves?
“So it’s kinda a slow start… but it slowly over time builds” says DJ TV “They start off with the classic aliens on another planet… these things land, but then we start to get to the emotional stuff. That takes a long time to develop.” This is essentially what Invasion of the Body Snatchers is, character development and relationship building. Not quite clocking in at 2 hours, Invasion of the Body Snatchers feels incredibly long, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “These developments make the film so much more powerful” states Foxx Jackson “by the end of the movie I genuinely cared about some of these characters.” At first glance the acting might seem a bit dry, but as the classic sci-fi horror film progresses you suddenly realize how human these characters are. There are some themes about social seclusion and bonding with a small group of people that can hit really hard. Leonard Nimoy does exceptionally well as psychologist Dr. Kiber, managing to seem both cold and caring at the same time. Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright make for a particularly cute couple, Goldblum’s character seeming to be a little crazy from the get-go, while Cartwright offers a delightful counter-balance to his erratic behavior. Surprisingly Sutherland and Adams are the least memorable characters in the cast, while their performance certainly isn’t poor, neither really gets a chance to shine until the last act of the film.
“I feel like they did a lot of experimentation with this film with the cinematography” asserts DJ TV “I recognized a lot of the tropes, but before this I’m not sure they were used often.” Invasion of the Body Snatchers does in fact present some innovative film techniques. Many scenes alternate between using a steadied camera and a shaky camera, there’s also a strikingly large number of Dutched shots (angling the camera diagonally) that play surprisingly well with San Francisco’s notoriously sloped roads. “It’s really cool… things you’re looking at aren’t always what they appear to be” continues TV “you’re looking at character that appears to be standing upright, but then you look behind them and cars are defying gravity in the background.” If Invasion of the Body Snatchers does anything well, it’s manage to make you look uncomfortable through looks alone.
“It feels like it’s about this paranoia about your neighbors, your friends, and who they really are” says Foxx Jackson “it still feels surprisingly relevant.” The 1956 original has often been referenced as a metaphor for public paranoia during the Red Scare in 40s and 50s America. While this remake may not contain the exact theme, there is something to be said about humanity’s innate mistrust (and sometimes misplaced blind trust) for each other. Perhaps that is is the real terror for this film, who can you trust?
After all is said and done, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is a slow-burn sci-fi horror film about bonding with others in times of crisis and the risks and rewards that come from trusting each other. While it lacks the flash of modern blockbusters, it looks pretty good for a 70’s flick and uses film techniques that were innovative for the time. The acting is solid all around, even if it isn’t apparent at first. It may seem like it takes a (very) long time for the film to really get rolling, but in the end it pays off.
The Screening Room rates on scale of:
Both Foxx and TV rate “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” buy it. Making this film Screening Room certified as Buy it.