Body Snatchers 1978 and 1958: two depressing ass movies and I love them both dearly

I love Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s near and dear to my heart, but I will say this: I probably shouldn’t have watched it as a teenager, because Jesus Christ, are these films depressing.

I love Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s near and dear to my heart, but I will say this: I probably shouldn’t have watched it as a teenager, because Jesus Christ, are these films depressing.

The 1978 re-make is one of my favorite horror films of all time. Besides having sexy young Jeff Goldblum in it, Body Snatcher’s is so gut-wrenchingly painful. There’s no way Elizabeth and Matthew and their friends are going to have any lasting impact. There’s no way. There’s no way anyone really can, and that’s the beauty and terror in this film. By the time you realize something nefarious is afoot, it’s time to go to sleep.

Body Snatchers is also unfortunately extremely skilled in providing viewers with a faux sense of hope. You want to believe that these two nobodies from the health department will fight the odds and save the city from the growing onslaught of the pod people.

In the final act, Matthew and Elizabeth rejoice as a boat comes into harbor, and the background score is punctuated and brought to a head by the haunting sound of bagpipes wailing ‘Amazing Grace’.

At that moment, you feel the trepidation, the terror, and, horrifyingly still, their last threads of hope that they will escape this cityscape nightmare.

You are still feeling it even as Matthew sprints towards the ship to the soul-crushing realization that they are ferrying more alien pods out of the city.

You still feel it as he runs back to fetch his beloved Elizabeth, shrouded in the relative safety of reed plants.

And as Matthew clutches his forever love in his arms while she disintegrates into dust, so too do those last feelings of anticipation.

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There is more to the movie still; Matthew manages to destroy a makeshift camp where the pod-people are exporting and growing more of their kind, a sort-of ‘humanity’s last stand’ scene—but after Elizabeth’s body and memories and mind are snatched by the pod-people, and she stands naked in the reeds, hand outstretched, beckoning Matthew towards his inevitable fate—hope crumbles like a shriveled up host. This film is entirely hopeless.

In the year 1956…

And I found that, shockingly, the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers was no different.

I had been holding off on viewing this one. Once, I caught the first few minutes of the opening, and I was so unimpressed and bored I turned it off. Damn this millennial/gen-z instant gratification.

Coming out of my depression after watching the 1978 version again, I popped the original into my metaphorical DVD player. I could see why I had been less-than-enthusiastic.

It begins, in my opinion, with too much fodder, and I’m all for ramping up the tension steadily, but not for hearing about the lives of the good honest folks out in the country.

Finally, I un-slump from my chair and sit up when I hear the tell-all wail of ‘but that’s not my husband! It’s an imposter!’

And for a film of that period, they had some moments where even my hair stood on edge. The first came from about the halfway point of the movie. The town of Santa Mira is almost entirely overrun by pod people. In eerie, silent synchronization, they take to their cars, ferrying out more of the pods so they can presumably spread the infection (invasion?).

And the second…oh boy, the second…

“Just let it happen, Miles.”

From more-seasoned horror buffs, I had heard about and read the high regard in which they held this scene, and I didn’t believe them. I thought ‘oh, what could these old bastards know about true fear’?

Man, this scene. Of course, Miles goes to find a possible way out of town, leaving poor, defenseless Becky to her own devices. He returns, and leans down to kiss her…only to look back at his reflection, through frigid, dead eyes. Becky turned into a pod-person.

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It lacks the dramatic buildup seen in the 1978 version, but I found this much more frightening, and a bit more heartbreaking. From the moment the camera pans down onto Becky’s cold, uncaring face, your dread reflects Miles’. I’m glad I watched this one in my 20’s because it would’ve made me just as depressed as the 1978 version did.