You’re back! Welcome back to the Nightmare on Film Street Video Vault! You’ll have to excuse me if I’m taken a little aback, I’m having a moment of deja-vu, kinda like a movie remake. Yeah, that’s it! We see you so often, it’s like a Hollywood remake of classic horror movies, something we’re all too familiar with in this day and age, but please don’t take it as an insult. Seeing you is like seeing an old friend. There’s a familiarity that’s as comforting as family so please take this as the warmest of compliments.
Speaking of remakes, this month is The Return month at Nightmare of Film Street where most of our content has been focused on remakes, reboots, retellings, and reimaginings. The title we have for you this time around will stand the hairs up on the back of your neck and heighten your sense of paranoia. It’s a chilling retelling that started with the original back in 1956 and is still being retold all these years later. Without further adieu, I give you Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers (1993).
BACK OF THE BOX OVERVIEW
Director Abel Ferrara (The Driller Killer, 1979) tells the harrowing tale of an Environmental Protection agent Steve Malone travels to an Alabama military base to investigate toxic materials. In tow is his family including his teenage daughter Marti, new wife Carol, and eight-year-old son Andy. When high schooler, Marti befriends the daughter of the base’s commander, Jenn Pratt she seems to be fitting in quite well or so it seems. When people at the base begin acting strangely, Marti becomes convinced something sinister is afoot… or rather a tentacle. She soon discovers that people are slowly being replaced by alien clones that grow in pods and it’s only a matter of time before she and her family fall victim to this quiet invasion.
ATTACK OF THE POD PEOPLE
Gabrielle Anwar (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, 1995) plays Marti Malone, the teenage daughter of Environmental Protection agent Steve Malone portrayed by Terry Kinney (Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, 2019). Meg Tilly (Psycho II, 1983) is Carol Malone, the new wife of Tim and new step-mother to Marti and bane of her existence. Rounding out the Mallone family is Reilly Murphy (Save Me, 1994) as Andy Malone, Marti’s stepbrother.
Billy Wirth (The Lost Boys, 1987) is Tim Young, the base helicopter pilot and the fledgling apple of young Marti’s eye. Marti’s new bestie, Jenn Platt is played by Christine Elise (Cult of Chucky, 2017) who happens to be the daughter of the base commander General Platt played by the late R. Lee Ermey (Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, 2006) and his wife, Diana Platt played by Kathleen Doyle (Tales From the Darkside TV, 1987). Forest Whitaker (Species, 1995) plays Major Matthew Collins, the one guy on the army base that suspects something amiss albeit far too late.
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REIMAGING A REIMAGINING
The original 1956 version of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers was an adaptation of author Jack Finney’s 1954 science fiction novel The Body Snatchers which stays remarkably close to the original story. Then in 1978, a remake of the adaptation hit theaters starring Donald Sutherland (Alone, 2020), Veronica Cartwright (Alien, 1979), Jeff Goldblum (The Fly, 1986), and the late Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979). In 1993 the remake of the remake and our spotlight film Body Snatchers was released, while the last reimagining (so far) of the franchise simply titled Invasion (2007) hit theaters. This closer to the original version starred Nicole Kidman (The Others, 2001), Daniel Craig (Knives Out, 2019), and Jeffrey Wright (Lady in the Water, 2006). There were rumblings in 2017 that yet another remake in the works over at Warner Bros. with Orphan (2009) scribe David Leslie Johnson attached to write but the buzz on that has since fizzled out and the franchise’s fate is unknown at this time.
The 1993 version is the only film out of the three remakes not to follow the source material’s basic plotline. Body Snatcher also opted not to use the lead character’s surnames, Driscoll, Bennell, and Bellicec. Another difference is the film’s shift in perspective from the Steve Mallone/Dr. Bennell characters to the fresh and naive viewpoint of teenager Marti. It did, however, reintroduce the child character Andy, who suspects his mother has been usurped by the pod people, something that the original film used but was left out of the ’78 remake.
Fun fact: Actress Veronica Cartwright, who was in the 1978 remake Invasion of the Bodysnatchers was also in the 2007 reboot, Invasion.
Usually, when someone mentions Body Snatchers most people gravitate to the famous quote from Meg Tilly’s character, “Where you gonna go, where you gonna run, where you gonna hide? Nowhere… ’cause there’s no one like you left.” It’s a chilling line delivered with such eerieness it’s not surprising that some folks wanted to immortalize the line in their own works of art.
Remember Robert Bartleh Cummings and his little brother Michael David Cummings? You might know them better as Rob Zombie and Spider One. The latter has a band called Powerman 5000, you might have heard of them. Well, they used that sample on their 1994 True Force EP on the song Strike the Match. Meanwhile, Canadian pioneers of industrial metal Skinny Puppy used the same sample on their 2007 album Mythmaker on the tune Dal.
DEATH BY RESCHEDULING
The theatrical release of Body Snatchers was something of a fumbled attempt. The film was originally scheduled for release in October 1992 but the film’s distributor, Warner Bros. had reservations upon reviewing their horror season schedule. It seemed with titles such as Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (1992), Candyman (1992), Dr. Giggles (1992), and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), the schedule leaned heavily on the serious side of things and they felt Body Snatchers would suffer because of this, so the film was delayed, moving around the calendar several times throughout 1993 until it was finally released in January of 1994.
The delay resulted in an extremely limited release for Body Snatchers which significantly lowered the audience potential ultimately hurting the box office take to just over a paltry $4oo k. With a budget of $13 million, you do the math. The home video release of the film helped in opening the picture up to a wider audience but the studio’s lack of marketing meant it would fly under the radar for the vast majority of the general public. Horror fans, however, flocked to it and praised it as a truly scary, truly fresh take on the old storyline. Body Snatchers currently sits at a solid 70% at Rotten Tomatoes citing strong characterizations and a heavy sense of dread as some of the major successes of the film.
With an appropriate cynical 90’s vibe, Body Snatchers is a stark reflection of what is arguably one of the most contemptuous decades of recent memory. It’s dark, shadowed, and cloaked in dread throughout its 87-minute runtime, keeping its pod-hatched foot pressed firmly enough against the audience’s throat to keep them engaged but loose enough to award a much-needed breath every now and then. While not true to its older step-siblings, it does a great job as a surrogate to its older kinfolk and like most 90’s kids, finds its own identity within the pod family unit. Much like Marti does in her family unit.
So what do you think? Worth a watch? Tell us on our Nightmare on Film Street Twitter, Subreddit, Facebook, and official Nightmare on Film Street Discord. And if you’re not into the whole social media thing, subscribe to our Neighbourhood Watch Newsletter to get all of your horror needs delivered directly to your inbox! Until we open the Video Vault again, fellow fiends, stay creeptastic!