A frightening film which never over steps it bounds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers works as both sci-fi fantasy and gritty contemporary tale., as Philip Kauffman’s take on Jack Finney’s seminal sci-fi novel effectively brings forth the paranoia of the late 1970’s, where civil unrest, Vietnam, and Watergate reigned supreme.
On top of being an engrossing conspiracy thriller in step with the gritty urban tales of the time, the Invasion of the Body Snatchers is also a genuinely creepy film which slyly suggests there is something sinister beneath the surface, and then slowly reveals itself with a number of terrifying twists and suspenseful sequences, culminating in a gut kicking conclusion. There is no Spielberg alien friendly whimsy here. There is no salvation.
The plot – as adapted by W.D. Richter – centres on Department of Health official Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) who – along with several of his friends (Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, and Veronica Cartwright) – must contend with an alien organism which has infected mankind, turning humanity into pale imitations of themselves which are void of emotion.
With such a premise, it is to no surprise that the Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a character driven film, which not only focuses on the emotions of its lead characters, but also takes subtle pains to engross the viewer with the sights, sounds, and routines of the San Francisco locale in which the film is set. Thus, as its inhabits wander the city in a stupor after drinking from the same well of madness, the films main characters along with the viewer share the same fear and confusion as their society crumbles around them.
The acting on hand is very good. Donald Sutherland gives a compelling lead performance, Jeff Goldblum is at his jittery best in one of his earlier roles, and the stunt casting of Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy works beautifully, while his role as a famous psychologist cleverly satires the “Me Decade” of the 1970’s.
Also, various comparisons to fascism and communism are felt throughout, as well as a strong religious connotation with its talk of re-birth.
Composer Danny Zeitlin provides an exceptionally eerie, symphonic score, sufficiently producing the nightmarish atmosphere needed to make Kauffman’s vision take shape, and the films sound department have done a tremendous job, especially in regards to the terrible scream which bellows from the mouths of those infected. Visual and make-up effects are also well handled, as evident in one freak out scene.