Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Fear 1/5
Gore 0/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 2/5
Nightmares 1/5

Last week was spent in Lake Tahoe with the fam and la familia de Cortez, decided to have a horror movie night. With my father being a fan of this movie genre, it was a no brainer. As we discussed about our potential movie selections the night before, to his shock, he came to find out that I had never seen this classic film. So the next day, off to the hole in the wall mom and pop video store we went. Lake Tahoe is stuck in a pseudo 80's strip mall vibe where the only places that you can rent videos are dingy hole in the wall joints. Walking into one totally reminded me of perusing the shelves at the local Video Library as a kid, long before the retail behemoth of Blockbuster charged onto the scene.

Some folks don't like old black and white horror films because they claim that they are not shocking or terrifying enough. Maybe the fact that the film is black and white and many movies back then lacked any overt gore or outrageous torture or snuff. Many of today's film goers will undoubtedly find this movie too passe. What I try to do when I watch films of this era, is to go into it with a mindset of imagining the times in which the film was made. What was the history of our country at the time? What was popular culture like? What other types of movie genres were popular that make this film a truly horrifying experience for some?

The film itself involves a small town doctor who is constantly hearing stories from the local townspeople that something is just not quite right with its inhabitants and that something 'evil' has taken over the town. The doctor laughs off the claims that their loved ones have turned into emotionless monsters and that they look the same but are just 'different'. He goes on as if life is normal, taking his girlfriend for a night on the town. Upon entering a normally busy restaurant establishment, it becomes clear that something is a little off but not too concerning for our doubting doctor. The bartender speaks of business not being the same and that the establishment is normally filled to the brim with patrons.

The doctor is soon called from dinner, asked to come to a home of someone claiming there is a dead body there. It is at this point that things start to get a little interesting. The doctor enters the home to find the dead body strewn across a dining room table. He lifts back the sheet covering it to reveal a body that looks similar to the person who inhabits the home. It is in this shocking moment that the doctor proclaims 'Its not you yet, but a structural likeness' (cue the 'dun dun dun' music). The doctor soon discovers a group of pods within the greenhouse of the man's home and it is within this scene that it becomes apparent to the doctor that something is very wrong.

As the movie progresses, we come to find out that everyone, the business owners, phone operators and police officers have all been taken over by this alien life form. Our doctor takes on the role of wanting to warn the townspeople in the next town over of the impending 'invasion'. We come to find out (just 'why' exactly, is never clear )that if you fall asleep, you become one of 'them'.

The movie makes a statement at the time about life in McCarthy era anti-communism about being blacklisted and viewed as 'alien'. For me, the message is not quite as relevant but for my dad the message rings through a little more clear. Fears of being the same and turning into one of 'them', I imagine, would scare the absolute bejesus out of anyone watching this film when it first came out in 1956. Viewing it in a modern context, its a great movie for its subtle scares and chills and really triumphs without any sort of over the top extremism that is present in most horror films today. The simpleness of this film is what I enjoyed the most. Truly a classic film, horror or otherwise.

Cortez the Killer

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