When the pods invade…

Body snatching pods from outer space are fricking scary! At least when bug-eyed aliens invade you can see them and their spaceships. The thought of an unseen life form stealing my body is just EEK .

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

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Having been traumatized by the 1978 version first, I was impressed when I watched the 1956 original and got much of that same sense of dread as the small town begins to get “weird.” This film is very intense for its innocent time period. The discoveries of the new forming bodies are effectively eerie, and even the pods are deliciously gross, despite the lack of full color effects.

Having seen the details ironed out in the remakes, what I found glaringly problematic in the original is the lack of explanation as to the fate of a person’s body after the pod body is fully developed. Dialogue makes assumptions about it, but at the end of the film, one of the characters appears to simply have been taken over, not duplicated.

invasion 56 main guy with pod

There’s also a sudden domino effect in which the characters draw all these accurate conclusions about the invasion and the conspiracy behind it all at once. In later films, the pacing is a bit more realistic as the pieces begin to add up slowly.

However, I love when we get an early example of the ridiculous tradition of the “romantic interlude” arriving right in the middle of the horror. Too funny. The film also has a noticeably optimistic conclusion.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

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This is how you do a remake. The concept is simply updated for a modern (when the 1970s were modern) audience. In fact, many of the sequences are direct modifications of scenes from the original.

The opening is totally 70s sci-fi, with us actually being taken to the planet from which the body snatchers come! We watch these wisps exit their home planet and descend to planet earth through rain, landing on the beautiful buds of nature….

A classic 1970s slow burner, the film creates unease and creepiness throughout. Watch as Donald Sutherland and friends begin to notice people acting differently on the streets of the city, staring vacantly and emotionless like some mysterious cult coming to get you.

The horror is totally amped up. The pod “births” are gory-nasty and accompanied by a pulsing, heinous sci-fi sound effect. The swine-like squeals the snatched people let out with their mouths gaping open when they spot a normal human will stay with you forever, as will the scene when a poor homeless dude and his dog fall asleep next to each other with only one available pod. Can you say nightmare nourishment?  And the final moment of this sequel is UNFORGETTABLE. No optimism here.

invasion 78 dog

Interesting to note is that what little nudity there is doesn’t feel at all forced or gratuitous—it makes absolute sense under the circumstances and tightens up that old body/new body loophole from the original.

As for trivial points, Brooke Adams’s character lives in a townhouse—as does Nicole Kidman’s character in the 2007 remake. Plus, Kevin McCarthy, our hero in the original film, is STILL running from the pods over 20 years later, for he runs past Sutherland’s car at one point babbling about them coming. Invasion of the cameo!

BODY SNATCHERS (1993)

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Only the 1990s could ruin an awesome series of remakes. Body Snatchers takes place on a fricking military base, so it’s immediately hard to relate unless you grew up on one. Plus, we have some teenage girl narrating. It worked when Kevin McCarthy narrated in the original. Here, it just feels like Clueless.

This girl goes to the base with her dad, her little brother, and her stepmother, played by Meg Tilly. Basically everyone in the movie is military. So just get out the damn tanks and blow these body snatching fuckers away! Yawn.

Most of this remake comes across as a “teen horror flick.” However, the transformation scene with the pods is gruesome, scary, and awesome. And this time around the snatched people are quite clever, challenging your emotion meter by saying things like ‘I fucked your girlfriend’ and ‘I saw your little brother. I know where he is.’ Total bait for our sensitive human feelings.

body snatcher 93 transform

Sadly, the alarm scream of the snatched is mostly just a scream instead of swine-like, but the pod hatching sound effects are very similar to the 1978 version. Unlike the 1978 version, however, the nudity in this one is just ridiculous. For instance, the little boy finds Meg Tilly disintegrating in bed and then the new version of her simply walks out of the closet completely naked, bush and all, looking all seductive like she’s hoping to get gangbanged by the whole damn army. Um. I thought this was Invasion of the Body Snatchers, not Invasion of the Snatch.

And to drive home the fact that calling in the army ruins a horror movie, they pretty much blow up all the damn pods with missiles from a helicopter. So stupid. However, the fatalistic narrative ending is quite gloomy…in a good way.

THE INVASION (2007)

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This one starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig brings some nice new touches to the remake legacy. It doesn’t rely heavily on gore, but it is definitely suspenseful with some eerie transformations. However, there are NO pods. Instead, those already snatched puke in your mouth, giving you a body snatching virus. The catch is you still have to fall asleep before the change can be completed.

Also missing are the alarm screams, but there is the return of veteran horror actress Veronica Cartwright, who starred in the 1978 version. Awesome. And as in the 1978 version, you start to see the ominous change in people on the streets of the city. Plus, the protagonist (Kidman) is a doctor, as was Kevin McCarthy in the original.

invasion nicole

Added to the mix is the idea that some people are immune to the virus if they had a particular illness as a child. And so—there’s a possibility of a “cure.” Nice twist on the original concept.

Finally, The Invasion really gives us a new perspective on humanity; as always, becoming a snatched body leaves you with no emotion, no fears, no feelings, no hate, and therefore, no suffering. However, you’re left wondering, would it be so bad to live in a world where everyone gets along simply because they’re indifferent to each other?

ASSIMILATE (2019)

This remake has chosen to totally distance itself from the source material, not even making reference to a single word from the original iconic title in its title.

If you ask me, Assimilate is a perfect update of Invasion of the Body Snatchers that will appeal most to the horror audience it should—young horror fans that may not even know of the previous adaptations. It works better as a teen horror film than Body Snatchers, in my opinion.

The core of the story is the same—a small group of people in a small town begins noticing everyone else is acting strange. Emotionless.

So what’s different? The focus is on teenagers (bringing to mind a hint of Disturbing Behavior as well) that begin making a video for the internet documenting just how lame their small-town life is. As they go around interviewing members of the community, something seems off.

The trio—two boys and a girl—catches on to what’s happening and tries to put a stop to it. They prove to be a lot braver than I would have been between the ages of 16 and 18. Actually, braver than I would be from the ages of newborn to infinity.

What I love about the film is that rather than simply remake the story, the details of how bodies are snatched is changed. Used to be simple; you fall asleep, your body is reborn from a pod.

Now it’s freaky as hell. The body snatchers first send a big creepy-crawly to bite you. Following that, your frenzied, naked double bursts from an embryonic pod and fucking hunts you down to kill you like a running zombie playing a game of It Follows. Then previously converted clones take your original body parts and burns them!

Assimilate is suspenseful, delivers jump scares, uses classic creepy camera angles and lighting, offers a cast of likeable characters, has a wickedly insane trailer home scene that you just have to see, and even features some boy butt.

Overall there are enough changes from the original to satisfy even those quite familiar with the story. As a bonus, Christina Aguilera’s hot roommate from Burlesque plays the deputy.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at www.facebook.com/BoysBearsandScares.
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