When my addiction to the fantastic first started to rage I decided to throw my full weight into new-genre, which is why I have a Sauron-esque eye for contemporary global horror. If it was made before 1985, however, the chances of me having seen it drop exponentially. But I'm tired of having to replace my phone every time the speaker explodes from Scott Weinberg's incredulous screams of, "You haven't seen WHAT?!"
Thus a new HorrorSquad feature is born. Think of this as the bearded evil twin to Elisabeth Rappe's The Horror Virgin series. I'm far from a virgin, but I blush like one when someone mentions a canonical film I've never seen. So please, join me in the re-education of a horror hound. Veteran minds will pick the movie, I'll provide a newbie's gut reaction.
Kicking things off is Philip Kaufman's 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. There's no rhyme or reason as to why this is the first film in my re-education, just so happens it was a title Scott and I were talking about when the idea for this pursuit came up. But I'm glad it was first because, well, it's setting one hell of a precedent. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is, without hyperbole, one of the best science fiction horror films I've ever seen.
If, like me, you've never been privy to the '78 version I recommend you stop reading this right now and find a copy as soon as possible. If you're still with me I can only assume you're well versed in who is involved and what it's about, but please humor my summaries:
Option 1: Two workers for the Department of Health join with an artist and celebrity psychiatrist in a seemingly futile struggle against an unassailable force that is slowly replacing everything they know to be true about the world.
Option 2: Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams (from the excellent David Cronenberg adaptation of The Dead Zone) team up with Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy to fight pod people from outer space. Written by Big Trouble in Little China's W.D. Richter and directed by Indiana Jones story co-creator Philip Kaufman.
As you can see Option 1 is more faithful to the overwhelming sense of dread that drifts through every scene, but Option 2 is the one that makes me slap my forehead in disbelief. A gathering of talents that cool and I've been ignoring it since birth? I'm not saying I live there permanently, but I definitely summer on an island of ignorance.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a perfect film, which is not an accolade I throw around often. Sure there are obvious reasons one can love it, perhaps most notably how timeless the premise is, but there's another reason I'm an instant convert. Philip Kaufman's remake is paced like a brisk thriller, built like a sci-fi puzzle box and painted with arguably the scariest extinction scenario possible. The stakes are not just the loss of self in the crowd or that your neighbors might secretly be the enemy. On the table is the downfall of the entire human race. There's no maybe-we'll-find-a-cure hopeful glimmer. All it takes is falling asleep. Catch a few winks and you'll never wake up.
This is slow suffocation without possibility of reprieve. Not only is mankind doomed to be replaced, it's destined to be erased entirely. Thousands of years of cultural evolution rendered meaningless overnight. From a historical perspective humans may well have never existed in the first place. That, more than anything, is why I love Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I can't imagine a bleaker end to our race.