Review: INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978)

By Darin Skaggs

In 1978 Philip Kaufman gave us a remake to the 1956 Don Siegel classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In the 1956 film aliens come down to Earth and slowly take control of humans as they sleep. At that time this was all an allegory for the communist coming and taking over America and a look at the extreme paranoia our country felt during that time. In Kaufman’s remake the paranoia is turned up a notch as aliens are not just an allegory for the paranoia we feel from other countries, but paranoia from our own country while making an effective horror thriller.

Invasion stars Donald Sutherland as Matthew Bennell, a health inspector that is set on taking down as many code breaking eating establishments as he can. He also has an affair with Brooke Adams married character Elizabeth Driscoll. When people they know start to act a little funny or accuse loved ones of acting not quite themselves Matthew and Elizabeth along with their friends Jack and Nancy Bellicec played by Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright respectively, try to figure out these odd happenstances going on.

This film was made in the heat of American controversy. We were still getting over the Vietnam War, Nixon had just been pardon by Carter for all his wrong doings. It was not an easy time to be an American, we were at a point where it was not easy to trust the President, the government in general and because of that it was hard to trust anyone at all. That is why this time around, the allegory for people taking us over and controlling who we are seems to be an inside job. The people we voted to keep the peace and we put our trust in are not at all what we needed.

That is what makes this a brilliant remake and not some unneeded garbage most remakes turn out to be. It is almost a continuation on the 1956 version. This is even more proved by the fact that Kevin McCarthy who played the main character in the original film, appears here with a similar haircut, similar clothes and still screaming his famous line from the final moments of the first one “They’re already here! You’re next! You’re next!” To prove that America has been taken over by corruption his character is then run down by “normal” people and murdered on the street. The director of the 1956 version even makes a cameo as a taxi driver on the alien’s side to say the bad guys even convinced a previous informer of corrupt officials to be on their side. The ending to the original is a hard blow, but this one is even more cynical and keeps to the theme of America taking over and going against everything it set out to be as a place of freedom.

Luckily the film also works as a solid horror thriller. Sutherland is a great lead, and an odd actor, but his style is perfect for the role. I enjoy Adams as well; they are a good couple, even though you know they shouldn’t be together. The two of them trying to solve the mystery of what in the world is going on with people, one of the first including Adams’ husband, makes for a good on screen duo. It has some creepy images like a half cocooned Jeff Goldblum and that dog, you’ll know when you see it. It is very imaginative, freaky at times and thrilling. Who really does great in the film as a double agent of sorts is Leonard Limoy (RIP). I had no idea he was in this film and he does great as a creepy guy who you do not fully trust, and later it is revealed for good reasons. The acting all around is wonderful, fun B-movie performances that make this a fantastic Sci-fi horror flick.

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