Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 2, 2016)
Every 15 to 20 years, Hollywood takes another shot at Jack Finney’s 1955 novel The Body Snatchers, and this worked well – for a while. Entitled Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the first adaptation came out in 1956 and remains as a classic 60 years later.
1978 brought another version, also called Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A rare “remake” that stands on its own, the 1978 Invasion became and remains regarded as a classic in its own right.
Since then, Finney’s novel hasn’t fared as well. Most recently, 2007 brought a big-budget action extravaganza with Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman. The Invasion received terrible reviews and failed to find much of an audience, so it bombed in all ways.
In financial terms, 1993’s Body Snatchers made no dent at all. According to websites, the film made a shockingly low $428,868, a figure so bad I wonder if it’s correct. The movie got fairly good reviews, though, so at least it escaped the totally negative fate that befell The Invasion.
I know I saw Body Snatchers back in the 1990s but bear little memory of it, so I greeted this Blu-ray as a chance to reacquaint myself with the third cinematic version of the story. EPA inspector Steve Malone (Terry Kinney) gets a summer assignment at a military base in Alabama, so he takes his family with him. This clan includes 16-year-old daughter Marti (Gabrielle Anwar), his second wife Carol (Meg Tilly) and his six-year-old son Andy (Reilly Murphy).
Steve goes on this job to investigate the potential impact of toxins on the local environment. Something seems to be amiss, as the locals behave in strange ways. Marti experiences this up close, as a soldier accosts her at a gas station and warns her that “they get you when you sleep!”
After she befriends others her age, Marti starts to find out that the suspicious actions may not be terrestrial in nature. She learns that aliens may be cloning people as a way on an interplanetary invasion.
As I mentioned, I saw Snatchers in the 1990s, and I could’ve sworn this took place on the big screen. However, the fact that the film made so little money makes me realize I probably viewed it on video, as it seems doubtful the flick hit my local multiplex.
While that memory remains hazy, I do recall the specific reason I felt eager to view Snatchers: Anwar. I’d seen her in 1992’s Scent of a Woman and felt smitten, as she presented a gorgeous young woman.
And I’d heard she went naked in Snatchers. Given the nature of communication during that essentially pre-Internet era, I don’t remember how I learned this, but the possible sight of an unclad Anwar guaranteed I’d have to see the film.
It intrigued me for other reasons as well, mainly because I liked the 1978 version of the story. I did see that one theatrically, and it gave my then-11-year-old self a good jolt. I felt curious to check out an updated adaptation.
Since I don’t remember my impression of Snatchers from 1993, I guess it didn’t do much for me. Now that I’ve seen it again, I know why: it brings us a wholly ordinary effort.
On the positive side, I appreciate that Snatchers gives the source its own spin. This may disappoint some, as the 1993 film’s loose connection to the original may cause frustration, but I like its attempt to do something different.
Other than that burst of creativity, though, Snatchers offers a pretty dull experience. Sure, the military setting allows it to feature a climax with a greater action-orientation than found in earlier incarnations, but by the time we finally get to the finale, we just don’t care.
At a mere 87 minutes, Snatchers should boast a lively, fast-paced tale, but it doesn’t. The movie’s feeble stabs at character development bring out no personality, and we never care about Marti, her family or others. They exist as generic fodder for the attempted horror.
Despite the potential for rapid pacing, Snatchers evolves at a pokey rate, and it never draws us into its web. Again, the characters feel thin and poorly drawn, so we don’t fret about their fates.
One particular flaw stems from Joe Delia’s ham-fisted score. When the movie actually threatens to give us a real scare, Delia’s music overwhelms and ruins the moment.
Take the scene in which all the kids in a day care group creates identical paintings except Andy. This reveal should come across as spooky and creepy, but Delia’s music damages the impact in a severe manner. Other scenes flop due to this factor too, as Delia’s cheap-sounding synth work actively hurts the film.
Not that I think a great score would save Body Snatchers. While I admire its willingness to branch away from earlier renditions of the theme, the end result feels dull and anonymous.