Note: This piece was originally published on Creators.co.
Remakes. I hate remakes because they end up like this film. Dreadful, uninteresting, not scary in the slightest, and so many other things I’m not thinking of at the moment. I truly thought it would be a good idea to revisit this particular remake, but I was wrong. Live and learn, and sometimes regret.
The Warner Bros. Pictures film Body Snatchers, based on the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, is just plain awful. Yesterday when I was writing about The Invasion, the 2007 remake of the same novel, I commented on how I couldn’t remember this film version. Well, now I know why. It’s utterly forgettable. It’s the worst of the remakes and makes the now 10 year old version look stellar, not to mention probably makes the original look spectacular and a must own. This is sometimes the bad part about watching films in a series or all the remakes that exist. Sometimes comparing and contrasting isn’t the best idea.
“They Get You When You Sleep”
After seeing this film, I’d rather be an emotionless pod person. It would most definitely be better than having to feel any of the things I felt while watching. I really wanted to like this, which should’ve been easy as I couldn’t remember much about it, including the last time I saw it, which I’m seriously beginning to think was over a decade ago. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Even with remakes it’s impossible to find anything redeeming about it.
Why should this film have worked? I’m actually not sure. I just thought it would’ve, and that it would’ve been infinitely better. There’s the familiar elements that everyone knows about: the pod people, the mysterious things going on, which lead to the discovery of the aliens, and the inevitable defeat of said aliens. However, in this version, it seems more up in the air on whether or not they were defeated before they spread too far. Even this should’ve been a decent ending, but it was just blah. I wish I could blame the acting. While it’s nothing stellar, it’s as good as it needs to be. That being said, the lack of any interesting characters didn’t help at all. I saw people going through motions and had no reason to give a damn. Sure there was drama, but it wasn’t useful in the way that the writers were probably hoping. So, why should this film have worked? Perhaps it’s the setting change. It takes place on a military base. It’s something we hadn’t seen before. However, unless I dig deeper into the themes of this film and what may have been seen at the time of its release, I see no benefit to this location change. So, I guess nothing that makes up this film was destined to work in any truly effective way. Then again, there were three writers for this film, so perhaps the problem begins and ends there. Oh, and it’s another remake. That definitely doesn’t help.
Making it harder to like or even enjoy this film, is the fact that it doesn’t achieve whatever level of horror it was aiming for. I don’t even think it came close to being that of a thriller. Thankfully this film automatically gets to be a scifi film or it might just be this strange little film that exists that very few people like. I say this because I wasn’t scared. At any point, by anything. I had high hopes that this might be another horror version, but now I’m in desperate need for the 1978 version.
If there’s one upside to this film, which still doesn’t carry enough weight, it’s that the practical effects for the pods and the vine like things that are used to copy people, and the ash forms of the former living people, looked good. So good in fact, that not only can they be gross, but this is where some of the best creepiness came through. Sure a slight scare could be had from these moments, but they weren’t long enough or all that strong to have some lasting impact. It’s why, even though I like them and the scenes in which they occur, which really send the film into motion after taking about an hour before anything happened, they still can’t make up for all of the other terrible aspects.
The worst offender, which I never thought possible, and had me questioning so much about the intentions the writers had, was that this film was too boring. Everything moved in the slowest and most uninteresting fashion. Even when the creepy, weird and mysterious things kept happening, starting with Gabrielle Anwar’s weird encounter with the soldier in the gas station bathroom, the narrative never picked up. This is partially why it couldn’t even be a tiny bit like a thriller. I’m also finding, in part, that this is why nothing scared me. I wasn’t really bothered, or even disturbed when disturbing things happened. I just went along and prayed I’d keep my eyes open.
Whatever the ultimate goal was with this film, it either didn’t work well then and thus can’t ever, for most people, I’m sure, or it just hasn’t aged well. It’s got to be something, right? Otherwise, how do you explain away how awful this film is?
Originally Released: May 15, 1993 (Cannes Film Festival), Jan. 28, 1994
Director: Abel Ferrara
Writers: Stuart Gordon, Dennis Paoli and Nicholas St. John
Starring: Gabrielle Anwar, Terry Kinney, Billy Wirth, Christine Elise, R. Lee Ermey, G. Elvis Phillips, Reilly Murphy, Kathleen Doyle, Forest Whitaker and Meg Tilly