Though completely in style of typical 70’s and 80’s movie – I do believe it save to say the trailer doesn’t really do the movie justice. It’s a bit messy, jumping back and forth all throughout the movie displaying random scenes, and focuses almost solely on dialogue while the film is so much more than just actors talking.
However, it does reflect the feeling of the era in which the movie was made, so you will kind of know what to expect, but just don’t merely let the trailer decide whether or not to watch this movie. It’s a better movie than it suggests!
Interestingly, this is actually one of those very rare instances in which a remake outclasses and outperforms the original. The first Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is also pretty good, and we will review it at a later time, but doesn’t quite match up against this incarnation if not merely for the fact that the original plays in a small country town versus the San Francisco Bay Area in the remake which also features supreme special effects and star power.
Star power? Yes, star power! Here’s three names you should know – Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard “Spock” Nimoy. That’s right! Star Trek’s very own Mr. Spock! And he displays, some, emotion in this movie! And yes, I’m saying some – but to be fair, I haven’t met a lot of psychiatrists who displayed much emotion in the first place.
Donald Sutherland, of course, is the father of “24”-star Keifer Sutherland but has (had) in fact a much bigger Hollywood-career than his son.
Though we will see Keifer back in another great cult classic review, but we’ll “take a bite” out of that one another time. You’ll get the pun if you know the movie…
Also, if you don’t know who Jeff Goldblum is, why are you even here? Go watch The Fly, Jurassic Park and Independence Day right now!
The movie is reasonably timid – there’s some gore but mostly from the alien-plants – which isn’t as bad as human-on-human violence. And yes, I’m being speciesist, looking at you Tumblr, squishing the head of an alien plant clone of yourself just isn’t as bad as killing a “real” human. Anyway, the point is that it’s more or less suitable for a somewhat younger audience. Aside from the aforementioned it’s pretty clean overall. Be aware though that they may use this film as an excuse not to not eat their vegetables. Pea pods, French beans and avocados specifically. But given the 20% special tax that will but put on avocados soon by presidential decree, that may not be a bad thing.
The plot is pretty straightforward, arguably it’s the usual “Man vs. Alien”-story.
What we are shown in the opening credits is a barren planet, from which amoeba life forms are about to go on a trip, an intergalactic trip that is, not the cool kind with the drip on your tongue and the spacing out hard to Pink Floyd or Jefferson Airplane. This trip is to find a new planet.
Anyway, turns out that extraterrestrial amoebas don’t need no space ship, no sir! Basically they are flying full on Ryanair style – no luggage, no service, no bathroom and holding on to the wings till you reach your destination is mandatory. For amoebas however that’s significantly less problematic because they rarely carry a lot of luggage. And they seldom go to the bathroom, even after a two weeks of hard partying, alcohol binging and enjoying lukewarm Greek specialties from food carts on the mean streets of Crete… Anyway, I digress. The point is that the amoebas somehow have the ability to simply drift off into space and sail the solar winds. Or so they claim.
Soon our amoeba friends are on their way through the galaxy and stumble upon an interesting location with vacancy available – “Planet Earth.” That’s right! That’s the place where we live!
And, as you guessed, that’s where trouble begins. The slimy extraterrestrials have landed in the San Francisco Bay Area, with plenty of people around. And they’ve got a very good use for us!
You see, these little amoebas come twirling down to Earth as raindrops and end up on the local plant life as little blobs of goop. Honestly, they look closest to a bodily fluid exclusive to adult men, but for now we’ll go with gelatinous snot. They look like snot.
Either way, the snot quickly begins morphing into strange flower pods – kind’ve like mutant avocados with a flower on top.
These cute “flower pods” are soon picked by the locals, one of which is Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) – who takes one home to show her dentist boyfriend, sadly he has more eyes for sports on TV then the pod. If only he had known.
As it turns out these pods have an eerie ability to grow into what is best described as a human Q-tip clone of the original. Confusing? You know when you’ve used a cotton swab and the tip sort of comes apart as the cotton loosens up? Just imagine wrapping a super fast growing, adult size foetus into loose cotton, growing out of a giant flower pod and eventually forming a perfect copy of the original – be it emotionless. Now you’re picturing it!
When Elizabeth wakes up the following morning the flower pod is gone and her boyfriend is acting mighty suspicious. But, behold! She has a secret! She’s a warrior of the night! Also known as a Health Inspector…
She takes her suspicions to her boss Matthew Bennell (Sutherland), “That’s B-E-N-N-E-L-L”, and tells him of the odd happenings. Needless to say, Matthew is a bit sceptical of these claims but when he is at the dry cleaner’s the next day the owner, Mr. Tong, quietly signals him over in hopes of him being a doctor. It seems that poor Mr. Tong is suffering from the same “delusions” as Elizabeth, he too swears that his wife isn’t his wife and that something is severely wrong.
Now, even for Matthew, things are getting a bit suspicious and he resorts to contacting a close friend of his – Dr. David Kibner (Nimoy) who is a famed, and somewhat curious, psychiatrist who has just published his latest book. Matthew arranges to meet him on the book premier, together with Elizabeth and another friend, Jack (Goldblum) who is a struggling writer and bathhouse owner. Once at the book store to meet his friend, there are more people who are panic struck and confused about their loved ones acting suspicious and unlike themselves.
The plot takes an almost claustrophobic twist as darkness descends – our team of health inspectors, psychiatrists and bathhouse entrepreneurs find themselves in a world where paranoia rules hard. Everybody is in on it. Trust no one. Not even those you love most. And there’s nothing more terrifying than that. Except maybe mutant avocados.
Unlike most cult movies, this is nowhere near a cheap production. The people in the movie are well-trained, gifted actors that absolutely nail their performances. Sure, there’s a certain stiffness to it but that goes with the age it was made in. But Sutherland and Adams form a solid duo with great chemistry. Nimoy does well as the cynical and professional psychiatrist, while Goldblum provides great enthusiasm and comical insight together with his “movie wife” Nancy (Elizabeth Cartwright).
Even the extras in the movie do well in their respective roles, nobody flunked it.
Sound(track) & Special FX
The soundtrack? Plain and simple: Great! The movie features the orchestral music we’re used to from major Hollywood productions. There really isn’t much more I can say about that, in that regard, it’s what you expect from a movie like this.
Special FX are not overly present in the movie, they are there a number of scenes and to proper effect. They won’t blow you away, or make you dry heave in disgust, but they do their job. They’re creepy and nasty – even though at times people look like cotton swabs but sure – but I can’t add much more to that. There are definitely some scenes that will make you scrunch your nose as they unfold on the screen.
The sound department is also worthy of a compliment – they did a great job regarding the sound the aliens make. In fact, it was stuck in my head for a while and when someone looked at me for a little too long the next day – just a for a moment, I feared hearing that sound. It just gets to you.
The art-direction isn’t necessarily extraordinary, but it is well done, it doesn’t drop the ball anywhere. Everything looks and feels like it should and I could spot no short comings. I presume the movie was filmed on location or, in the very least, they succeeded in giving the feel of SanFran and the surrounding areas.
8/10 – That’s pretty solid! Sure, as said before, this isn’t your typical cult movie in the sense of it being cheap and dirty – quite the opposite. But it is a movie that has attracted a fantastic cult following, anyone that’s into classic and cult movies needs to have this one on their list.
It has the odd background story, it doesn’t take itself too serious and strongly stands for the time period it was made in. This movie isn’t a cult movie because it’s bad – it’s a cult movie because it’s good.
8/10 – You won’t see this happening much! But Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the 1978 edition mind you, has done it! It holds a matching rating in both categories!
This movie is just really good as a film too, the actors, the directing, the locations – everything works! Above all the looming darkness that hangs over the film, something you just can’t escape, is palpable and deserves all the credit it can get. Few movies tend to use this so effectively as Invasion of the Body Snatchers does.
Last but not least it set the tone for many modern films of the same genre – it as an example to which other movies aspire. Even today.
So, this should be pretty clear, should you watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Yes!
If not just for the fact that you should see at least a number of cult and classic movies that are actually good. This is one of them and you can’t really go wrong with that.
Okay, sure – it doesn’t have crazy action and it ‘probably’ won’t scare your pants off either, but that’s not always the point. As I said earlier, this movie was groundbreaking and build the foundation for many of the movies we see today.
At least as important, and interesting, is the fact that it shows us actors like Sutherland and Goldblum in their younger years – men still vibrant and enthusiastic in both their acting and physique. It gives us a bit of nostalgia and understanding of the people they are today and the way society and entertainment worked back in the day.
How to Watch & After Thoughts
So, we’ve established that this is a great movie – but how should you watch it? And when?
Invasion of the Body Snatchers won’t make you laugh your ass off or cringe at the performances, instead it’ll tell you an actual story, something that – although unlikely – could happen to you and me.
Tanking yourself full of beer or hard liquor would be a shame, how about some wine instead? Block of cheese? Garlic bread? Drink something nice, eat something tasty – top it off with an espresso. Make it classy, you’re watching a classic!
And if you like none of the above, well – we’re basically talking about mutant avocados so why not some tasty tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa? That’ll show those pesky mutant vegetable-freaks! Eat their squished avocado remains and their blood for salsa!
Pro tip from Matthew though: Don’t eat anything with capers in it.
Be sure watch the movie with genuine interest, because it commands to be watched that way but also because it needs to be watched that way – you won’t enjoy the movie otherwise. This isn’t the kind of movie that will make you yell at your TV and throw popcorn, it requires at least some degree of intelligence and a clear mind. That is in no way a negative thing but it requires the right mood.
You will want to see this movie when in company of people who appreciate good film, or by yourself in a blankie with snacks and a drink nearby. You deserve it and so does the movie.
According to the movie’s producer, Robert H. Solo, there was a bit of a wage gap! Three of the lead actors – Brooke Adams (Elizabeth), Jeff Goldblum (Jack) and Leonard Nimoy (Dr. Kibner) only made $25,000 each for their role – but Donald Sutherland made between $200,000 and $300,000.
Calculating today’s inflation this means that the three other leads made about $280,000 together – not even as much as Sutherland at the time – and if we convert Sutherland’s pay with current inflation he made $747,500 all by himself. That’s over two and a half times as much as the others together! Ouch!
Oh, and there’s an uncredited cameo of Robert Duvall somewhere in the movie, can you spot where? Hint: It shouldn’t take too long before you spot him.
Also, if you’re curious to what a cross between a human and a dog, with a hobo’s head and a dog’s body, would look like – be sure to watch this one.