January 29, 2018 This Week In Horror Movie History – Body Snatchers (1994)
This week in Horror movie history, on Friday, January 28, 1994, the Pod people in Body Snatchers landed forcefully in a handful of cinemas in a spellbinding film adaptation of Jack Finny’s 1955 Sci-Fi Thriller of The Body Snatchers. This is the third film interpretation of the book following behind the 1956 and 1978 versions. The underlying political tone was that of the Cold War and McCarthyism, which for many sent a cold shiver running down the spine, for it represented the human race as being of one mind devoid of individuality and emotional content.
Abel Ferrara (King of New York 1990, Bad Lieutenant 1992) took on the challenge of a remake and deftly tapped into this fear by creating a Horror film in which human beings are replicated by an alien, plant-like species that had traversed the universe in search of a world to inhabit and infiltrate. The aliens created a perfect human clone, though these creations were devoid of the spectrum of emotions that is uniquely human. Abel Ferrara took the director’s helm and created an iconic film that despite its lackluster box office numbers was nominated at the Cannes Film Festival.
Ferrara took that primal fear and delved into the realm of paranoia and the notion that all things are not as they seem. This was Abel Ferrara’s first foray into the Sci-Fi genre and he did a stellar job, as it is still riveting after all these years. Despite the passage of time, to this day Body Snatchers can hold any jaded Sci-Fi aficionado’s attention in a vise-grip of paralyzing fear, with a fist held firmly against the mouth to stifle an involuntary shriek or two as nameless horrors parade across the wide screen.
Produced on an estimated budget of approximately $13,000,000, Body Snatchers features a stellar performance by Forest Whitaker (Fast Times at Ridgemont High 1982, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 2016) as a sleep-deprived paranoid medic named Major Collins. In fact, the entire cast glitters with stellar actors. Gabrielle Anwar (Scent of a Woman 1992, Burn Notice series) plays Marti Malone, a typical teenager going through the angst of growing up. Billy Wirth (The Lost Boys 1987, Boys on the Side 1995) takes on the role of Tim Young, a chopper pilot and Marti’s love interest. Terry Kinney (Oz series, Billions series) plays Steve Malone, Marty’s father, while Meg Tilly (The Big Chill 1983, Psycho II 1983) plays Carol Malone, Marty’s stepmom. Christine Elise (Beverly Hills, 90210 series, Child’s Play 2 1990) plays Jenn Platt, General Platt’s wild-child who befriends Marty. In turn, R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket 1987, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003) plays General Platt.
For those who missed Body Snatchers, the story opens in a remote military base in Alabama where the proverbial excrement hits the fan. Unbeknownst to the EPA chemist and his family – whose mission is to test the waters for PCBs – the base is slowing being taken over by a pod-like alien life form. These Pods have an uncanny ability to tap into the human genetic code and emerge as an exact duplicate of the human that they seek to replace. The caveat here is that they are only able to do so while their target is asleep, though the target eventually crumbles into dust as the alien achieves complete consciousness.
Told through the voice of Marti Malone, a teenager undergoing the transition into young adulthood, she reflects on how her life has been altered and destroyed with the loss of all those she loved. This leaves her with an atomic bomb-size hatred lodged in her heart. She takes steps to exact vengeance toward the alien species with help from her chopper friend, Tim Young. The question that resonates in the minds of all at the conclusion of the movie is: Where are you going to hide, where are you going to run, where are you going to go? There is no one left like you! There no place to run or hide!
When shown in competition at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, Body Snatchers was received very well. In fact, Roger Ebert considered it a superior to the previous adaptations of Finney’s famous novel. So why did it not fare well in theaters? Some can argue that its low revenue estimated just under $249,000 was due to its limited distribution by Warner Brothers. Whatever the case, Body Snatchers is a Sci-Fi gem. Who knows, there just might be a Pod replica in your future!