It’s not often remakes pay off, however, most fans would argue that Philip Kaufman's update of the 1956 classic is actually one of the few exceptions to the rule. This 1978 remake is, on the surface, a tale about a silent invasion of alien beings, who come our world in search for their new home, however, look a little bit deeper and you will enjoy a tense story exploiting man’s primordial fears of isolation, paranoia and losing all that we hold dear.
Helming the cast is a very young, but exceptionally composed Donald Sutherland. His character, a health and safety official, begins to notice those around him just don’t seem themselves. He is not alone, at first a small group of close friends seem to share his experience as their love ones become distant and soulless, however, it’s not long before their initial fears become far worse in reality than anything they could have envisioned. Alien copies of the citizens of San Francisco are beginning to emerge from sinister pods, and it isn’t long before the ensemble begin to become trapped and isolated within the city. They can’t trust the authorities, their loved ones and in the end each other!
The plot follows the novel (on which both movies are based) a little closer than the ’56 original, and it’s a great story. It’s been copied since, however the chilling pitch of this movie is simply what separates it from the copies – if you forgive the pun. The cast play a blinder, and despite being such an old movie, it doesn’t feel that dated – the Blu-ray version in particular helps with this aspects as the picture quality is simply stunning. The script is good, and strong, varied performances by other well-known actors such as Geoff Goldblum and Lenord Nimmoy only serve to make the experience seem all the more credible. It not particularly gory by any stretch of the imagination, but a creeping sense of dread, coupled with some shocking scenes really helps maintain a tension and atmosphere reminiscent of John Carpenters masterpiece ‘The Thing’. There are many subtle moments throughout the film which help to maintain the feeling of isolation, despite being surrounded by the soulless copies, and helplessness of the characters left ‘alive’, with my favourite being a rather too personal phone call from the police - very clever and very very chilling!
The special effects are always the ‘aging’ element of any movie, regardless of the decade it was produced, with the science fiction genre offering up some of the most suspect examples. Thankfully, there are no superimposed spaceship models in sight, in fact, bar a rather clever opening scene, all of the action takes place on earth. The pods, and in the process of being copied humans look particularly gross, rather than dodgy. Sure, you can tell the models from the actors, and the rather over lit sets from the real city locations, but they fit the theme of the rest of the movie with eerie noises and host bodies which slide silently from the pods rather than bursting from them all adding to that chilling atmosphere which I cannot understate.
Overall, bear with a slightly slow start and you will be rewarded with a science fiction gem which will stay with you. Credible cast, enjoying some of their finest career moments, and one of the most chilling endings to a movie ever, ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ is a keeper! Arrow’s transfer and compilation of extras makes this version perfect for fans looking for a definitive version, whilst providing a perfect medium for new fans to enjoy a classic movie looking the best it ever has!