Body Snatchers is a 1993 American science fiction horror film directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Gabrielle Anwar, Billy Wirth, Terry Kinney, Meg Tilly, Christine Elise, R. Lee Ermey, and Forest Whitaker.
It is loosely based on the 1955 novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney, with a screenplay by Nicholas St. John, Stuart Gordon, and Dennis Paoli.
Body Snatchers is the third film adaptation of Finney’s novel, the first being Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956, followed by a remake of the same name in 1978. The plot is centred around the discovery that people working at a military base in Alabama are being replaced by perfect physical imitations grown from plantlike pods. The duplicates are indistinguishable from normal people except for their utter lack of emotion.
The Body Snatchers TV series and film collection.
Steve Malone, an agent from the Environmental Protection Agency, is sent to a military base in Alabama to test possible effects on the surrounding ecological system caused by military actions. With him is his teenage daughter from his first marriage, Marti, his second wife Carol, and Marti’s half brother Andy. On their way to the base, they stop at a gas station. In the restroom, Marti is threatened by an MP member with a knife. When he notices her fear, he lets go of her, satisfied that she shows an emotional response. Before she leaves the room, he warns her, “they get you when you sleep”.
Steve and his family move into their new home on the base, and Marti makes friends with the base commander’s daughter Jenn. On his first day in day care, Andy runs away because he is recognised as an outsider among the other somehow conformist children. He is picked up and brought home by helicopter pilot Tim. Marti and Tim quickly feel attracted to each other. Meanwhile, while examining soil samples, Steve is approached by medical officer Major Collins, who asks him about psychological effects, particularly narcophobia (the fear of sleep), and their possible relation to toxication of the environment. Steve believes that a physiological reaction would be more likely.
In the evening, Marti and Jenn go to the bar attended by the station’s military personnel, where they meet not only Tim but also the MP who threatened Marti at the gas station. He denies that they ever met before. That night, a group of soldiers can be seen picking giant pods from the river running by the base. When Andy wakes up and enters his mother’s room, Carol’s body crumbles to dust, while a naked soulless double emerges from the closet. Nobody believes Andy’s story that his real mother is dead and the person pretending to be Carol is only an impostor.
The following night, Marti and her father are nearly “taken over” too by duplicates emerging from the giant pods. Carol attempts to convince Steve that the takeover is a good thing, claiming that it ends confusion and anger. She also claims that there’s no place to go, as the events at the base are not an isolated incident. Steve is almost shocked and saddened into compliance, but Marti and Andy drag him out the door. Carol emits a shrill and mechanical scream that alerts other “pod people” to the presence of a human being. Now the majority in numbers, they swarm over the base chasing the remaining humans.
After hiding Marti and Andy in a warehouse, Steve enters Major Collins’ office. The hysterical Major tries to call for help, but the line is blocked. While swallowing sleep-prevention pills Collins announces that it is too late to run; all they can do is fight. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of a group of pod people, led by base commander General Platt. While Steve hides, the pod people try to convince the Major that the individual is not important, and that only conformity can solve the world’s problems. The Major shoots himself rather than live in such a world.
Steve returns to his children and tells them to follow him, claiming to have found a way out. They drive aimlessly through the military base, as loudspeakers shout out instructions for spreading the invasion by carrying out pods in trucks. Realising that her father was replicated while he was away, Marti swerves the car to the side and tries to escape with her brother. Tim, who escaped his former comrades who tried to turn him into one of them, suddenly appears and Marti takes his gun and shoots the Steve duplicate. Pod Steve’s body shrinks into a mass of seething, bloody goo.
Tim manages to get hold of a helicopter gunship, but Marti and Andy are taken away by the pod people. They sedate both of them and take them to the base infirmary where the remaining human beings are being systematically duplicated by pods. Tim is able to rescue Marti, despite her pod duplicate trying to seduce him into compliance. Incomplete, it dies when he pulls its connecting tendrils off Marti.
Marti and Tim leave the building, pretending to be pod people so they can get to Tim’s helicopter to escape. However, they are spotted by Jenn, now a pod duplicate, who gets suspicious and tells Marti she saw Andy looking for her. When Marti reacts by displaying emotion, Jenn responds by giving out a pod scream to alert the other pod people. Tim and Marti manage to get in the helicopter and are joined at the last minute by Andy who runs up to them. But right after taking off, Andy, who is actually a pod duplicate, attacks both and tries to bring down the helicopter. After a short scuffle, a heartbroken Marti is forced to throw Pod-Andy out of the helicopter and he gives out a pod scream while falling to his death.
The ending of the film is an ambiguous one. Tim destroys the trucks filled with pods with the helicopter’s rockets, while Marti confesses her profound hatred in a voice-over narration, thereby hinting at a loss of humanitarian quality. While they land on another base, the words of Marti’s replaced stepmother earlier in the film can be heard, suggesting that the phenomenon may have already spread beyond the army base: “Where you gonna go, where you gonna run, where you gonna hide? Nowhere… ’cause there’s no one like you left.”
- Gabrielle Anwar as Marti Malone.
- Terry Kinney as Steve Malone.
- Billy Wirth as Tim Young.
- Meg Tilly as Carol Malone.
- Reilly Murphy as Andy Malone.
- Christine Elise as Jenn Platt.
- R. Lee Ermey as General Platt.
- Forest Whitaker as Major Matthew Collins.
- Kathleen Doyle as Diana Platt.
- G. Elvis Phillips as Pete.
- Tonea Stewart as Mrs. Fitzpatrick.
Warner Brothers released Body Snatchers to only a few dozen theatres, and consequently its domestic gross was a mere $428,868.
The film marked director Ferrara’s first venture into the science fiction genre. Producer Robert H. Solo had already produced its 1978 predecessor Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
The largest difference in this version of the story is that it takes place on an Army base in Alabama, unlike a small California town in the original novel and the first adaptation filmed in 1956, or in San Francisco like in the 1978 remake. While the first two films portrayed the tightly organised, conformist “pod society” invading a free civil society, Ferrara’s film, according to Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, made a connection between “the Army’s code of rigid conformity, and the behaviour of the pod people, who seem like a logical extension of the same code”.
Body Snatchers is the film which departs the farthest from the original novel, compared to the 1956 and 1978 versions. While Steve Malone, like the doctors Bennell in the earlier films, also has a medical/scientific profession, the main character in this film is his daughter Marti. The character of Becky/Elizabeth (Bennell’s love interest and his companion during his escape attempt from the invaders) is dropped completely, as are Bennell’s acquaintances and later antagonists Dr. Kaufman/Kibner and the Belicecs. Re-invented, however, are two elements which had been dropped from the 1978 version: A young boy (named Jimmy Grimaldi in the 1956 version, here Marti’s half brother Andy) claims that his mother is not his “real” mother. Also, the film features a voice-over narration by the main character. Two ideas invented by the 1978 version are picked up here again: The mortal remains of the “original” human beings are picked up by garbage trucks, and the duplicates utter an outworldly scream when they discover a genuine human, thereby calling assistance from other pod people.
Body Snatchers was shown in competition at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival, receiving very positive reviews from some critics.
- This was the first film shot with Arriscope anamorphic lenses, which were created for Arri by the German manufacturer Isco-Optic.
- Talks of a new version began in early 1988, with Philip Kaufman, director of the previous adaptation Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), producing alongside Robert H. Solo.
- Kaufman was not involved in the final film.
- Even though Marti and Jenn are supposed to be in high school, Gabrielle Anwar (Marti) was 23 years old when the movie came out and Christine Elise (Jenn) was 28.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Abel Ferrara.
- Producer(s): Robert H. Solo.
- Writer(s): Stuart Gordon, Dennis Paoli, Nicholas St. John, Raymond Cistheri, and Larry Cohen.
- Music: Joe Delia.
- Cinematography: Bojan Bazelli.
- Editor(s): Anthony Redman.
- Distributor(s): Warner Bros.
- Release Date: 15 May 1993 (Cannes International Film Festival).
- Running Time: 87 minutes.
- Rating: 15.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.