Synopsis: A teenage girl and her father discover alien clones are replacing humans on a remote U.S. military base in Alabama.
Stars: Gabrielle Anwar, Meg Tilly, Forest Whitaker, Terry Kinney, Billy Wirth, R. Lee Ermey
Director: Abel Ferrara
Running Length: 87
TMMM Score: (6/10)
Review: Jack Finney’s 1955 novel, The Body Snatchers had already made it to the screen twice before. The original 1956 version is a certified classic and, though some may say otherwise, so was its 1978 remake. Both films managed to be timely and seemed to have a reasonable justification for existing. In 1993, yet another take on the story was brought to the screen and while the results aren’t totally at the level of its two previous incarnations, there are a few memorable moments to keep this one apart from other retooling’s of sacred material.
To start off with, Body Snatchers had a director famous for his controversial independent features. Abel Ferrara was hot off of Bad Lieutenant and King of New York when he signed up for this far more commercial endeavor. Aided by a script from no less than 5 contributors, the action is moved from the small town of the original and the swinging ‘70s setting of the first remake to a military base where Steve Malone (Terry Kinney, Promised Land) has moved his family. Stepmom Carol (Meg Tilly, The Big Chill, Psycho II) is still adjusting as the new member of the Malone tribe and isn’t helped much by Steve’s daughter Marti (Gabrielle Anwar).
Marti in particular has it out for Carol and being uprooted from her previous life is, understandably, causing the teen to be quite the rebellious hellion. Though Marti makes fast friends on the base, her half-brother Andy (Reilly Murphy) has a rougher go of it. When he runs way, Marti meets cute helicopter pilot Tim (Billy Wirth, The Lost Boys) and proceeds in making goo-goo eyes at him. All is not all well, though, and the Malone’s aren’t even there a fortnight when Marti stumbles across a plot involving mysterious pods and a possible alien conspiracy.
Fans of the previous films may recoil at this horror flick aimed squarely at teenagers but in all honesty it works better than it should. At a trim 87 minutes, it feels like it suffered some major studio edits after the fact but I’ve a feeling it was for the best. Ferrara is remarkably restrained here, only letting loose during the finale and building up some solid unease for the first 2/3 of the film. The cast also makes a good impression with Tilly in particular delivering memorably in one dynamite scene.
Yet another remake (The Invasion) was released in 2007 starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig but even that star wattage couldn’t salvage what turned into an incoherent mess. If anything, it cemented the law of diminishing returns where these pod people pics were concerned.