Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 115 minutes.
Tag-line: "Get some sleep."
Notable Cast or Crew: Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum, Brooke Adams (THE DEAD ZONE, DAYS OF HEAVEN), Art Hindle (PORKY'S, THE BROOD), Veronica Cartwright (ALIEN, THE RIGHT STUFF). Cameos by Don Siegel, Robert Duvall, and Kevin McCarthy. Written by W.D. Richter.
Best one-liner: "Here I am, you pod bastards! Hey, pods! Come and get me you scum!"
Now this is how you do a remake- measured, requisite homage to the source, a balanced degree of artistic reinterpretation, and a top-notch ensemble cast. As far as I'm concerned, this film ushered in a decade of well-made horror remakes (THE THING, THE FLY, THE BLOB, CAT PEOPLE)- a phenomenon that sadly, did not outlast the 80's. Philip Kaufman's INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS brings a tremendous amount of artistry to the table: using a taut screenplay by W.D. Richter (BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS), Kaufman masters the slow build, the character development, and paranoiac atmosphere necessary to pull this off. There are perfectly alienating moments that feel like they're culled from a film by Teshigahara: the cobwebby aliens fleeing their home planet, wafting through space- abstract forms set to atonal music:
a cameo by Robert Duvall as a sinister priest pendulating back and forth on a squeaky swingset:
a world in panic, viewed through the distorted, cracked windshield of a car...
These impressions build, ever so slowly, to a crescendo of sorts- one of encroaching madness. We see a world in transformation: a puzzle assembled before our very eyes- only by the time its true face is revealed, we've passed the point of no return. Our heroes (who strain to seek the truth before it's too late) include Donald Sutherland as a likable, rational health inspector:
Jeff Goldblum as a high-strung, rambling writer:
Brooke Adams as a winsome, persistent botanist:
Veronica Cartwright as a resolute hippie; and Leonard Nimoy as a self-help guru who preaches reason in a time where what's called for is volatility.
The special effects are entirely disturbing, and not on a level of sheer gore- it's an unsettling depiction of wholly alien, biological, bodily processes, and it really begins to get under your skin.
This is a disorienting movie, full of convex mirrors, handheld cameras, and wide-angle lens shots-
I would go as far to say that it surpasses the original in sheer effectiveness- and it culminates with an (atonally?) pitch-perfect finale. Five stars.
And as a side note- watch for ingenious Don Siegel and Kevin McCarthy cameos-