Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Matthew and Elizabeth hide in Invasion of the Body Snatchers

“People are being duplicated. And once it happens to you, you’re part of this… thing. It almost happened to me!”

(Yes, I’m reviewing the 1978 remake, not the 1956 original. Don’t judge me!)

Alien invasion movies were a pretty big thing in classic film. They asked lots of questions: What if they’re good? What if they’re bad? What if they think we’re bad and come to judge us? Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by Philip Kaufman (mostly known for writing the Indiana Jones movies) and starring Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams, puts a bit of a different spin on it: what if they’re neither good nor evil, but so different that we can’t coexist? But this is not a boring morality study—this is a tense thriller! It doesn’t take the time to ask and answer a lot of deep questions, as many sci-fi movies do, but it moves quickly and is definitely not boring. If you’re in the mood for a tense and somewhat scary look at an alien invasion, this might be just what you’re looking for.

The story opens with Elizabeth Driscoll, an employee of the Department of Public Health, noticing some strange behavior in her boyfriend. He looks and talks like her boyfriend, but is completely devoid of emotion and starts having weird meetings with strangers. She tells her coworker, Matthew Bennell, that her boyfriend has been replaced by someone else. He initially dismisses her suspicions, but soon notices some other weird things that convince him that there’s something going on and others may be in danger. They begin their own research, but knowledge is dangerous, and it’s not long before the aliens are after them too.

Well, why not a space flower? Why do we always expect metal ships?

This film is a lot of fun to watch, but I can’t say it’s perfect. There are a few weird jumps in logic and forced lines that are used to move the plot along. But very quickly, I found myself hooked. It’s a true thriller that keeps you watching with constant tension and suspense rather than an artificial shock or jump scare from time to time, and it does that extremely well. It doesn’t completely spell out everything that’s happening. The whole story is spelled out eventually, but there are enough clues as to what’s going on that most viewers can piece things together before then. There are also a few unsettling (but not gratuitous) moments that provide just the right amount of fright.

A weird dog with a human head in Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Well, these aliens are doing a pretty good job of copying humans—OH GOD WHAT IS THAT?

While not perfect, this film does not fall short in taking you along for a wild ride—the tension is great, and there’s really nothing bad to pull you out of that. All five of the lead actors put on good performances that kept me engaged in what the characters were going through. The plot moved quickly without sacrificing story or characters. The aliens, when we finally hear about why they came to earth, have an interesting, if simple, story and method. I had a blast watching this film, and I was hooked even up to the final moments. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that the ending does not disappoint.

For a sci-fi movie, Invasion of the Body Snatchers goes light on philosophy and ethics, but heavy on suspense and tension, and is a very entertaining movie to watch. I wouldn’t describe this as an intense horror film—it’s not nightmare-inducing, although it is somewhat unsettling and might be too much viewers that really don’t like being scared. Also, probably not a good one for the kids. But I think most mature audiences will have fun with this one. I know I did.

View my complete list of classic, essential, or just plain good movies!

Runtime: 1:55
Director: Philip Kaufman
Year: 1978
Genres: horror, sci-fi, thriller
Rating: PG

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