Monday, April 25, 2011

Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments-#88:Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

By Eric Polk-
Recently on an episode of Dollar Bin Horror Radio, I was asked what my favorite horror remake was. Considering my disdain for most remakes, this was a very tough question. Finally, after a long pause, during which the Italian government changed three times, I came up with the first remake(1978) of this classic film directed by Don Siegel, a man who would later go on to direct one of my favorite non-horror movies, 1971's Dirty Harry.

Based on the novel by Jack Finney, this film focuses on one of my favorite themes in movie and books-loss of individuality. Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), a local doctor, finds a rash of patients accusing their loved ones of being impostors. Another patient is a former sweetheart of his; recent divorcée Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), who tells him that her cousin, Wilma, has this same strange fear about Uncle Ira.

Assured at first by the town psychiatrist, Dr. Dan Kaufman (Larry Gates), that the cases are nothing but "epidemic mass hysteria," Bennell soon discovers, with the help of his friend Jack Belicec (King Donovan), that the townspeople are in fact being replaced by perfect physical duplicates, simulacrums grown from giant plant-like pods. The Pod People are indistinguishable from normal people, except for their utter lack of emotion. The Pod People work together to secretly spread more pods — which grew from "seeds drifting through space for years" — in order to replace the entire human race. Young Ms. Fischer was taken over by the seed pods early in the movie and she begins to plant the seed pods all over town and even targets her students in hopes of having an army of young bodies to help convert others.

The film climaxes with Bennell and Driscoll attempting to escape the Pod People, intending to warn the rest of humanity. They hide; Driscoll fights an overwhelming urge to sleep, but when she briefly drifts away, she is instantly subverted, becoming one of the Pod People. What is scary about this film? Well, how would you feel if you watched as a emotionless version of yourself erupted out of pod? What if you watched as your town or city was being taken over by alien entities and no one believes you?

When it was released, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was described as an allegory for the alleged Communist threats hovering over America. That's one way to look at it, I suppose. Again, what I take away from this film is the theme of loss of individuality. To me, that is more scary then any ideological menace.

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