“They get you while you sleep!”
Yes they do, no matter what version you are watching, however if you choose to watch the 2007 one, you may fall asleep anyhow and it would be for the better if you did. Watching Philip Kaufman’s version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” you won’t fall asleep, you cannot. I promise you that much.
For those unfamiliar with the “Body Snatcher” theme, the gist of the matter is that somewhere in outer space there are spores on a devastated planet orbiting a dying sun. The spores are driven by their impulse to survive to leave their doomed planet, drifting through space trying to conquer new planets.
At the beginning of the movie we see these spores escaping from a dead, rugged planet, drifting into space, heading towards a new planet. Earth. As inconspicuous drops of translucent tiny blobs of gel they pour down on us one day in the morning rain and nothing will ever be the same.
Immediately the spores start to evolve, first into tiny pods attaching themselves to plants, sprouting pleasantly scenting blossoms, spreading further and further unnoticed and unhindered.
When we see the first people passing by in one of the first scenes, Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) is holding one of those pod flowers and she is eyed suspiciously by a passing school teacher woman. There already are pods on the plants everywhere (that’s how fast it really is!) and the very first human pod is a priest in a robe (Robert Duvall) on a swing that makes an unnerving squealing noise while he is swinging back and forth, all the while staring at her. Right from the start we get the feeling that something is off. The paranoia starts.
[Nice anecdote here: Duvall just happened to be in town that day and did that scene for free, just like that.]
The pods spread and among the first is Elizabeth’s boy friend. Together with her colleague Matthew (Donald Sutherland) the two slowly start to realize that something is not right. Matthew, being a health inspector for the Department of Health has a semi scientific angle and thinks it is some kind of epidemic or flu but as the “podification” progresses and the paranoia increases there is less and less room for any health protocols and more and more need for immediate action to prevent the pods from eradicating mankind altogether.
Together with their friends, Jack (Jeff Goldblum) and Nancy (Veronica Cartwright) they try to stop the invasion, while Dr. David Kibner (Leonard Nimoy), a psychologist and mutual friend of Matthew and Jack, tries to rationalize the whole thing and explains it as a type of mass hallucination, something a pill and a good night’s sleep would cure…
Matthew is the main protagonist, saving Elizabeth from becoming a pod and trying to warn his friends, the department, the police, everyone but too late, they are all pods. In a desperate attempt to save themselves they try to flee from the city but even the taxi driver is one of them and informs the others that he has “Type H” passengers on his ride to the airport.
They have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, all hope is lost when Matthew suddenly hears “Amazing Grace” sounding through the night from one of the ships at the docks. A spark of hope amidst all desperation and with new found strength he turns to Elizabeth, lying on the ground, hurt, promising to be back with help and runs off into the night towards the beacon of hope only to have his hope dashed once more. Broken and filled with despair he returns to where he had left Elizabeth. She has fallen asleep and she will not wake, she is gone, too. He is alone now. He may very well be the last man on earth but he is not legend… but he will fight nonetheless! To what end? See for yourself.
There have been countless reviews on all the symbolism and parallels in this film and the original one, like McCarthyism and the Cold War, the paranoia of soul sucking communism and the media frenzy turning us all into shells of our former selves, drones devoid of emotion. In the end it is still what it is, an excellent horror movie that takes modern urban alienation (in the case of Kaufman’s version) and paints a very bleak, dystopic view of society. I saw it back in the 1980s on good old VHS tape (which I still own) and it scared the hell out of me back then. Seeing it today it still is creepy but I too must confess that it seems I have been slightly “podified”, as it does not scare me as much anymore as it did back then. That in itself is scary!
» Read the full DVD review of the Collector’s Edition released in 2007 over at eyecravedvd.com