The original INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) was very cool. I gave it four shriek girls. The 1978 remake was almost as good and I gave it four shriek girls too. If you draw a line from those two data points, you'd think my rating for this 1993 remake would also be four shriek girls. Yep, that's what you'd think.
BODY SNATCHERS was directed by Abel Ferrara (THE DRILLER KILLER) and written by Stuart Gordon (Re-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND), Dennis Paoli (Re-ANIMATOR, THE DENTIST) and Nicholas St. John (THE ADDICTION, THE DRILLER KILLER).
The movie opens with a family driving down a country road. Angst-ridden teen Marti Malone (Gabrielle Anwar: THE GRAVE, FLYING VIRUS) tries to ignore her little brother Andy (Reilly Murphy) while her voice provides the opening narration.
The opening, pointless, cliché-ridden narration.
I've never made any secret of the fact that I hate narration. On the first day of film school they teach every director-to-be: "show, don't tell." Narration mostly either states the obvious or tells you things the movie should be showing you (Even worse is when the movie opens with text scrolling up the screen AND the narrator reads it to you! I can read, thank you!)
Steve Malone (Terry Kinney: SLEEPERS) is the father and is also a traveling EPA inspector, on his way to a remote Army base to see if there's been any leakage from a chemical weapons facility. His beautiful wife Carol (Meg Tilly: PSYCHO III, IMPULSE) is the mother of Andy, but not Marti. The family stops for gas and as Marti enters the ladies room a soldier from the base accosts her. He appears terrified and tells her "They get you when you sleep." Marti runs to her father but the soldier has vanished.
They reach the base and get settled in their assigned base housing, where Marti discovers to her horror that she'll have to share a bedroom with her little brother. Marti goes for a walk and meets Jenn (Christine Elise: CHILD'S PLAY 2), a standard issue movie cliché teenager. Jenn is the General's daughter, has an alcoholic mother and just wants to party, woo hoo!
Speaking of the General (R. Lee Ermey: APOCALYPSE NOW, DEMONSTONE, THE TERROR WITHIN II, SE7EN, THE FRIGHTENERS, MEGIDDO: The Omega Code 2, WILLARD , THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE ), he's none too pleased at having Steve there, a situation apparently forced on him. The base doctor, Major Collins (Forest Whitaker: SPECIES, BATTLEFIELD EARTH), is friendlier, and strikes up a conversation about the poisons Steve is testing for. It seems the doctor has had a lot of patients recently who are afraid to sleep, afraid of their families, and just generally afraid. He wants to know if any of the contaminants have known psychological effects.
Back at the house some Army grunts deliver some boxes to the Malones. Marti is surprised to find the soldiers in her parent's bedroom and asks them to leave. What were they doing in there?
Young Andy has a freak out at his first day of school, when all the other quiet, creepy kids produce identical finger paintings. He tries to run away from the base and meets a chopper pilot and all around hunk named Tim (Billy Wirth: THE LOST BOYS) who takes Andy home, meets Marti, and we can all see where that's going.
Jenn shows up that night to take Marti out on the town (i.e. go to the only dive bar for 100 miles). The bar is uncharacteristically quiet, but Marti does manage to run into Tim again. Everyone's having a good time when the MP's show up and drag off a passed out soldier. Marti recognizes one of the MP's as the crazed soldier she met in the gas station ladies room. He seems fine now.
Andy goes in his parent's bedroom to talk to his mother, who seems to be sleeping. As he approaches his mother's body, it collapses in on itself. Before he can react to that a nude woman who looks just like his mother steps from the closet and stares at the little boy.
Before you can say, "Holy Oedipus!" Let's have a
Read this and all of our BODY SNATCHERS Science Moments at - SciMo Invasion.
As past versions can attest, this is a good premise for a scary movie. But just because it's a good recipe doesn't mean it'll automatically produce a tasty dish. You have to put some effort into it. If you set your word processor on autopilot and have cardboard characters spout clichés at each other you can't help but make a bad movie. Even having a good actor like Forest Whitaker tossed into the mix can't save it.
There is one pretty cool scene that I have to mention. After Carol Malone is transformed of course she leaves pods for the kids and her husband. But they wake up before the pods are finished and realize what's going on. Steve comes tearing down the stairs, yelling to Carol that they have to get the hell out of there. She very calmly says, "Where you gonna go? Where you gonna run? Where you gonna hide? Nowhere. 'Cause there's no one like you left."
This scene saved this movie from getting 1 shriek girl. Instead, if you've been doing the math, you'll know I give it two shriek girls. Barely.
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