Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

At the risk of sounding pretentious and snobby, a lot of horror films in recent years have been the kind that rely on tension-building punctuated by jump scares. That’s not to say that these films are objectively bad, I’m often terrified when I watch them. But for me, there’s something much worse about uncomfortable ideas coupled with a disturbing atmosphere. Which of course, brings us to Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Strange budding flowers from space grow in a suburban-like American town, and begin to have a curious effect on people. Paranoia begins to set in as people become convinced that their loved ones have changed, and are not themselves. As might be expected, these people are disregarded as stressed-out, mentally unstable, or conspiracy nuts. Unfortunately, the suspicions of these people prove right all too quickly as we learn that clones of bodies, or pods, are birthed from these plants. They dispose of their expired human counterparts, and distribute the plants among the other people in town, slowly taking over.

The sinister nature of the ‘body snatchers’ is something interesting in the film too. Just the same as us, they want to survive, by any means necessary. Unfortunately, those means are at odds with what makes us human:

“There’s no need for hate now, or love…We came here from a dying world. We drift through the universe, from planet to planet, pushed on by the solar winds. We adapt and we survive. The function of life is survival.”
Dr David Kibner, Invasion of the Body Snatchers

There is something really awful about the end of this film too, and I mean that in the best possible way, an awful outcome befitting of a horror film. The unexpected ‘turning’ of Matthew, our sympathy for Nancy (an entirely minor character), and the horrible sound of the snatcher’s shriek…it’s not a terrifying jump scare, but it’s not something that you can easily shake off and forget either.

Feelings of mistrust and mass hysteria are all too common, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers captures those fears really well. In times of political turmoil and upheaval, these fears seem all the more poignant, and that goes for people of all political allegiances. In fact, I think that’s the strength of this film – everyone fears not knowing or understanding their neighbours. To feel like a stranger in one’s own home, and to feel isolated because the people around you no longer seem reasonable or the same, well, I can think of nothing more frightening than that.

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