Invasion of the Body Snatchers creates high tensed existential dread heading towards impending doom.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a science fiction horror with an existentialistic take on humanity. It combines surreal shots, psychological horror and body horror with great practical effects. The main focus lies with the characters, their actions and create a strong foundation for the storyline.
The buildup beginning with a mystery and strange happenings spirals out of control and works towards terrifying body horror and existential horror. It’s much more than an invasion horror and the threatening aliens, but it’s about what it means to be human.
Elizabeth Driscoll and Matthew Bennell both work for the Health Department, and are colleagues and friends. When one day Geoffrey, Elizabeth’s boyfriends is acting really strange, she tells Matthew who at first thinks she’s the one who needs help and recommends seeing a friend and psychiatrist David Kibner.
But Geoffrey isn’t the only one who’s acting strangely, others are too and finally Matthew notices it as well. Even Kibner is acting strange. But when two other friends Jack a writer and his wife Nancy find something really weird and frightening, something terrifying is happening to humankind. Can Elizabeth and Matthew outrun it or even put a stop to it, or is humanity doomed?
Why you should watch it
While the emphasis lies with the psychological horror and the great buildup causing a lot of tension, there’s much more kinds of horror to be found. It is therefore a very rich horror film, that equally focuses on the characters, the storyline, the horror mentally and physically, the psychology behind it, existentialistic philosophy, and some gruesome gore, mixing it all together in an impressive movie. It dives deep into philosophical themes while it remains evenly entertaining and accessible to all audiences.
Many scenes are causing a surreal effect. Due to the way people are behaving, which is really weird, but also the original and surreal camera angles create a sense of alienation. Like when Elizabeth and Matthew are walking on the pavement only their legs are shown, symbolizing a dissociative feeling, disconnecting people of who they are from what they do.
Also when Matthew is on the phone in a public phone booth he is shot from below and a little askew, while other people walk by him. This particular shot shows the alienation that he feels, lost amongst people who aren’t people anymore. It represents the despair and frailty of humanity and of Matthew himself.
All these shots represent the loss of individuality, the loss of emotion, taken by the Body Snatchers. Making humankind a better kind without emotions that are only in the way of functioning properly. But it’s what defines us as individuals, our emotions make us who we are, how we act and react. When this change in behavior starts, it causes paranoia which is shown in a very disturbing way. Who is still a human being and who isn’t? Who can be trusted?
This is one part of the horror. But the subtle horror is present at the background. People exchange briefcases, garbage trucks that are collecting strange bags. A man that runs from a group of people while he gets hit by Matthew and Elizabeth. It all adds to an eerie atmosphere taking place in the most ordinary neighborhoods, making it all the more creepy.
Finally there’s also great body horror to enjoy. With outstanding practical effects pods are created and pod people creeping out of their cocoon. It’s gooey, it’s gross and icky, but beautifully created and it really does come to life in a horrific way. And let’s not forget the dog with the human face. It’s horrifying.
All these different kinds of horror stemming from different kinds of sub-genres mix very well together, creating a highly original film, although the story itself isn’t an original one. This version however is a seventies masterpiece. It’s well-acted, it has some dark humor, it addresses serious themes about mankind, it’s gory and the structure that starts out as a mystery that has to be solved, while all around them their doom already is set into motion is amazingly done. The surrealism and the alienation though, make up for the biggest part of the horror, depicted by superb cinematography and sound.
My favorite part
When at night Matthew is sitting on his recliner, watching over his pod, but falling asleep slowly, is a very suspenseful and great scene. It is beautifully shot and when the pod hatches it is shown explicitly. They don’t cheat by fast forwarding or skipping parts, no the birth of this pod man is shown to us in all its horror glory. The frames flow organically into one another showing us a duplicate of Matthew himself. It’s practical horror at its best.
But the surreal images are a real treat too. It creates an elusive atmosphere, very eerie and strangely. The way the new pod people behave is anything but human and it’s really scary especially when they start hunting the remaining real people. It results in a terrifying game of hide and seek. And their pointing and the sound that comes out of their mouths are bone-chilling.
Scare factor: ★★★★☆
Thrill factor: ★★★★☆
Surreal factor: ★★★★☆
Originality factor: ★★★★★
Cast and crew
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is based on the novel The Body Snatchers written by Jack Finney published in 1955. It is directed by Philip Kaufman and the screenplay is written by W.D. Richter. It stars Donald Sutherland (Matthew), Brooke Adams (Elizabeth), Leonard Nimoy (Dr. David Kibner), Jeff Goldblum (Jack), Veronica Cartwright (Nancy) and Art Hindle (Geoffrey).
Duration: 115 minutes. Music: Denny Zeitlin. Cinematography: Michael Chapman. Edited by: Douglas Stewart. Produced by: Robert H. Solo. Production company: Solofilm. Distributed by: United Artists.