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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Abel Ferrara’s ‘Body Snatchers’ Is the Definition of a Hidden Horror Gem [We Love ’90s Horror]

The ‘90s often get a bad rap with horror fans. After the numerous successful slashers and creature effects films of the ’80s, the ‘90s offered a different variety of horror fare. Though there were plenty of hits, hidden gems, and misunderstood classics, the ‘90s usually don’t get the kind of love that other decades get when it comes to horror. It’s time to change that.

Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchers has been adapted into a film version on four separate occasions. The 1956 and 1978 versions, both called Invasion of the Body Snatchers, were critical and financial successes. But, in 1993, another version of the story was made but ended being shuffled away by its distributor.

Simply called Body Snatchers, this newer version had already been put through the wringer before it ever hit the big screen. With numerous writing credits that include genre luminaries like Larry Cohen, Dennis Paoli, and Stuart Gordon, this update finally landed in the lap of controversial filmmaker Abel Ferrara. At the time, Ferrara’s filmography included provocative fare such as The Driller Killer, Ms. 45, King of New York, and Bad Lieutenant. Though Gordon was originally going to direct, Ferrara’s attachment – along with his longtime collaborator Nicholas St. John as yet another added screenwriter – turned Body Snatchers into something that’s downright extraordinary.

This version of the story takes place on a U.S. Army base in Alabama where the familiar pod people have infiltrated the military. Our protagonist is a teenage girl named Marti (Gabrielle Anwar) who has moved to the community on the base with her father Steve (Terry Kinney), her stepmother Carol (Meg Tilly), and her little brother Andy (Reilly Murphy). She’s accosted by a fleeing soldier who tells her something is wrong and soon Marti discovers the horrifying truth: pods from outer space are duplicating humans and replacing them in order to take over the planet.

It’s a story that we’re deeply familiar with thanks to previous iterations, but Body Snatchers understands just how rich the material is for allegory and metaphor. Ferrara milks this in almost every shot of the film, using the incredibly talented Bojan Bazelli – cinematographer of A Cure for Wellness, one of the best shot movies of the last decade – to emphasize shadows and silhouettes in a number of beautifully loaded frames. Body Snatchers oozes with mood at every turn, making the paranoia of the premise that much stronger. This entire article could be dedicated to just praising the cinematography of the film alone.

But, it’s not just how Body Snatchers looks that makes it a winner. The entire cast is doing great work here. So many moments stand out. Reilly Murphy’s strong reactions to his growing suspicions that everyone is all the same. A powerfully shot romantic moment between Gabrielle Anwar and her love interest, Tim (Billy Wirth) where they play a game of I’ve Never. Forest Whitaker confronting a group of pod people in a defiant last stand. All of these are impactful moments. However, the standout performance comes from Meg Tilly when Carol’s duplicate tries to convince Steve to give in to the pods. It’s one of the most chilling moments in any horror film from the ‘90s, emphasizing the futility of resistance.

Just watch as Meg Tilly delivers a monologue that should be way more heralded than it currently is:

And if these elements weren’t enough to make Body Snatchers stand out from the crowd, the creature fun of it all is expertly delivered. We get a phenomenal sequence where the pods are beginning to replicate Marti and Steve, but they wake up before the duplicates can be finished. Seeing the creation of the pod people and watching the heroes be confronted with their doubles leads to some shocking horror that rivals similar moments from the ‘56 and ‘78 versions. While it’s tough to call Body Snatchers an outright creature feature, the alien elements are wonderfully executed and will make any fan of practical effects more than happy.

Like all of the riffs on Jack Finney’s story, Body Snatchers is overflowing with elements to deeply analyze. Shifting the story to a military base immediately coats the entire story with a fear of authority and particularly a distrust of armed forces in power. The casting of R. Lee Ermey as the base’s commanding officer is knowingly sly, and when it’s revealed that he’s a pod person (and may have been all along), it gives added weight to imagery we saw earlier like the American flag being lowered against a doom-filled sunset. There are reads in the film that involve race, the decline of American exceptionalism, and the unease about how adults run the world and do a poor job of it. Even more reads are valid because Body Snatchers is deliberate in its desire to be thematically meaty. It’s got a lot on its mind and that makes it worth revisiting to see new parts of the metaphor reveal themselves.

More than anything, Body Snatchers captures an all-around great sense of uncertainty and fear in an incredibly artful way. If A24 released this today, it would absolutely fit in with their approach to more arthouse riffs on genre storytelling. We recently saw Body Snatchers for the first time over at GenreVision, and it was easily one of the best films we’ve seen this entire year. Body Snatchers is an artful, slow burn, dread-filled tone piece that succeeds across the board. It’s one of the secret great movies of the ’90s and it deserves rediscovery and reappraisal.

Ferrara’s Body Snatchers stands toe-to-toe with the other beloved versions of the story and there’s an argument to be made that it’s the best of the bunch.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/editorials/3623522/abel-ferraras-body-snatchers-definition-hidden-horror-gem-love-90s-horror/

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