Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

By Sean Gardner

Alien invasion movies have been a science fiction staple for decades. They speak to our intergalactic curiosity and attempt to provide the answer to the oft asked question, “Are we alone in the universe?” This 1978 remake of the original, black and white classic delves into one of the most interesting such mysteries; what if the aliens looked like us? Not “like us” in the sense of being humanoid. But “like us” as in exactly like us in every way. What if they were essentially body doubles?

As you can imagine, the film explores the various conundrums these doppelgängers would present. Husbands and wives become suspicious of each other. Friends can no longer be trusted. Enemies are in plain sight, but at the same time, virtually undetectable. The filmmakers use these facts to effectively create a sense of fear and helplessness.

This helplessness is heightened by the fact that the characters are so likable. The perpetually underrated Donald Sutherland, a very young Jeff Goldblum, and Spock himself, Leonard Nemoy guide us through the story. Sutherland is solid, completely believable and likable. Goldblum is not quite as Goldblum-y as he is a decade or so later in The Fly, but he’s pretty close. Nemoy, fittingly, plays a psychiatrist who is the voice of reason for most of the film. Even though we, as the audience, know he’s wrong, because of Nemoy’s performance, we want to trust him.

The ending is iconic, but also a bit of a let down. It is a let down in two different ways. First it is in someways predictable. It’s hard to imagine any other outcome. Second, it is a let down because it ends on a down note of hopelessness. We want it to end better for these characters because we like them, but alas, it doesn’t.

Overall, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an enjoyable film. It may be a little dated, and the ending is predictable, but it delivers as an exploration of some interesting science fiction elements.

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