31 Days of Horror: Film #29 INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)
Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers gets adapted to film every 10-20 years and has also served as the direct inspiration for many other books and films. The two most recent Body Snatcher films – 2007’s The Invasion and 93’s Body Snatchers – aren’t very good. The 2007 film is a studio screw-up (they took the film away from the director and had other people do major rewrites and reshoots. The director’s cut remains unavailable, I think) and while the 93 film has its genre charms, it seems to miss the point of what makes the story so relatable and frightening.
I think that the earlier Invasion of the Body Snatchers adaptations, the Don Siegel film from 1956 and the Philip Kaufman film from 1978, are some of the best sci-fi horror films ever made.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the story of a populace being taken over by unfeeling alien imposters – “pod people.” The pod people look, think, and sound just like us, but they don’t feel; they’re emotionless. They believe that they can create a better world by spreading the pod and changing us all to be like them.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers has often been called a thinly veiled allegory for the fear of communism. That really comes through in the 1956 version.
What makes the film frightening – and what the 93 adaptation missed – is the horror of watching something you’re familiar with turn into something cold and alien. In the 56 film it’s a small town, in the 78 film it’s San Francisco. (The 1993 Body Snatchers is set on a military base, which is cool, but not as easily relatable for most viewers, and as such it misses out on this twist in the story.)
This was my first time watching the 56 film in forever. It almost felt like watching it for the first time. It’s an excellent film; frightening, and ahead of its time. My favorite remains the 78 film, but there’s no real wrong choice between the two films. They’re both classics and deserve to be seen.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of fiction and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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