Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) – 4/5

Gruesome and disturbing, in a good way. The best way, actually. And deeply psychological too. It’s all extremely tense and well shot, with a pretty good story and an excellent performance from Leonard Nimoy whom I had no idea was such a great actor. You learn something new every day. But the film is disgusting not because of any particular gore elements per se but rather because of the extreme detail in which the film chooses to portray the biology of the aliens and the various creatures they “invade.” There also sure is a heck of a lot of violence and nudity for a film originally released with a PG rating. Kids back then had all the fun.

I was extremely impressed by the quality of the special effects here. Everything is very realistic, to the point of bringing me to near nausea at times, particularly during the ***SPOILERS** “birthing” scene around the middle of the film. So slimy and disgusting, god. And Donald Sutherland’s weird half closed eyes during that scene only added to the insanity. And that half human, half dog thing near the end freaked me out, even though it was clearly just a mask. But man was I not expecting that. And the way they used the garbage trucks here was genius. Their purpose is never directly stated, but it quickly becomes obvious as the film goes on why they’re so prevalent on screen. ***END SPOILERS** It takes some truly sick, brilliant minds to come up with stuff like this. I love it.

The film is also shot brilliantly. From the very beginning, there’s this ever-present sense that something isn’t quite right with the world, and it’s this persistent tone that keeps things suspenseful despite not much of significance taking place until a good hour in. Every scene is well framed and lit and edited. It’s a beautiful thing to behold; filmmaking at its best. I’d argue that the film is actually better during its more suspenseful first half, when things are still up in the air and you’re not quite sure when the “other shoe will drop.” Though the latter half isn’t bad either, just not as suspenseful.

And Nimoy, man, he’s great in this given the various opposing roles he has to play, often simultaneously. I also really liked Jeff Goldblum here as the hilariously quirky friend, though he’s also given an extremely weird scene to play near the middle involving a mud bath house that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around. Well shot and edited, sure, but what in god’s name was going on?

Aside from a few logical inconsistencies here and there, the film is pretty great. And the ending, well, it’s a classic that I’m not going to spoil here, though it leaves you with more questions than answers, especially in regard to Donald Sutherland’s character, namely, **SPOILERS** why he was staring so intently at that woman, his love interest in the film up until the point she’s killed and cloned, (the one that looks a little like Katie Holmes), if the aliens don’t supposedly feel any kind of human emotion? Was it trying to imply something about human nature, how love “can survive” even after having been replaced by a human/alien clone hybrid? **END SPOILERS** Who knows.

Overall, though, worth watching, especially if you like suspenseful science fiction films, or just well made films in general. Strongly recommended.

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