The Invasion of the Body Snatchers title one of the most well-known and prolific in all horror. With a total of four movies, the concept has spanned over 60 years and shows no signs of slowing down, with occasional news of remakes happening at Warner Bros. for the past five years.
Over the decades, the movies have been used as allegories for everything from communism to the dangers of mind-control by the government. No matter what it was about politics and the sociopolitical climate at the time, there has usually been a thought-provoking Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie to match. With each new installment, the franchise has managed to stay relevant and reflect the fears of its contemporary time. Though directors and writers have changed over the years, the core themes of paranoia and loss of identity remained constant.
One of the reasons the series is so enduring is because the plot is so adaptable. It’s a simple concept that can be used to comment on any number of social issues. The basic premise is that aliens are coming to Earth and taking over the bodies of humans. They look like us, they talk like us, but they are not us.
Let’s take a deeper look at each of the sci-fi horror movies and see how they reflect the time in which each was made.
4 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
The first movie in the franchise was first released in 1956 and is simply titled Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It features Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter and was directed by the iconic Don Siegel. It’s set in a small town in California and follows a doctor who starts to notice that his patients are behaving oddly, and their family members are uncomfortable around them. They’re all reporting the same dream: that their loved ones have been replaced by imposters.
While he initially writes this off as mass hysteria, the doctor soon realizes that there’s something more sinister at play. Aliens from a struggling planet have come to Earth and are taking over people’s bodies to create an army that will eventually inhabit the planet as a new home for these pod people.
One of the best sci-fi movies made before the ’70s, the film was seen as an allegory for either the Cold War and the Red Scare, or McCarthyism, which were both rampant during this time. The idea of an enemy hiding in plain sight, masquerading as one of us, was a very real fear for people through this period. Many people were afraid of being targeted by the government or infiltrated by Communist spies.
3 Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)
The second movie in the series, also titled Invasion of the Body Snatchers, was released in 1978. This film was directed by Philip Kaufman and starred Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, and Leonard Nimoy. The plot of this movie is quite similar to the original film and still revolves around the townspeople being replaced by aliens. However, the 1978 film is set in San Francisco instead of Santa Mira.
The 1978 version is considered one of the best science fiction movies ever made and is often praised for its political allegories. It’s widely believed that the film is related to the anti-government propaganda during Watergate. This installment brings those same fears from the 1956 original and builds on the paranoia with a postmodern twist.
The pod people in this movie could be a metaphor for the government and how they can control and manipulate people. In addition, the Vietnam War was still fresh in everyone’s mind, which only added to the film’s message about how humans can be controlled by outside forces. The film also touches on themes of conformity, paranoia, and trust.
2 Body Snatchers (1993)
Released third in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie iterations is the 1993 installment titled Body Snatchers. This film was directed by Abel Ferrara and starred Gabrielle Anwar, Terry Kinney, Forest Whitaker, and Meg Tilly. The film is set on a military base in Alabama, where a group of teenagers is living to accompany their family, who are searching the base for toxic material.
The film follows these teens as they start to notice that people on the military base are acting strange. They soon discover that aliens have replaced these people and that they are next on the list. The aliens in this movie are once again using humans for their own needs, and it’s up to the teens to stop them.
This film has more great action sequences than the previous two films and has more of a darker horror feel to it rather than sci-fi. There are differing beliefs on the allegory in this movie, but some say it’s about the Gulf War and the military-industrial complex. Others believe it’s a metaphor for the AIDS epidemic and how it affected families at the time. As Roger Ebert put it in his perfect-score review:
The first film fed on the paranoia of McCarthyism. The second film seemed to signal the end of the flower people and the dawn of the Me Generation. And this one? Maybe fear of AIDS is the engine.
Whatever the allegory, it’s clear that Ferrara’s vision signaled a darker, mor insidiious development to the Invasion of the Body Snatchers concept, one which discarded the idea of the ideal, kind community altogether in favor of a darker, more totalitarian state.
1 The Invasion (2007)
Released in 2007, The Invasion is the fourth Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie. The plot of this film is once again about aliens taking over the bodies of humans, but this time it’s on a global scale, related to the globalization present in the 21st century, along with the fear of global terrorism. This film was directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel and had a stacked cast of Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Jeremy Northam, and Jeffrey Wright.
The film starts with a space shuttle crashing in Washington DC and releasing a strange alien virus (a more on-the-nose metaphor). This virus causes people to lose their emotions and become more violent. As the virus spreads, more and more people are turned into these emotionless creatures.It’s up to Dr. Carol Bennell (Kidman) and Dr. Ben Driscoll (Craig) to find a cure for the virus and stop the invasion. This film was intended to be a remake of the original 1956 film, but it took on a life of its own.
The 2007 film is an allegory for the Iraq War and the war on terror. The aliens in this movie can represent how these wars have turned people into empty creatures who only act on violence. This is a more modern take on the original film, and it’s one of the most relevant to today’s society.
While it’s clear the Invasion of the Body Snatchers franchise is full of allegories, each film is unique in its own way. Whether it’s a metaphor for the Cold War or the war on terror, these movies remain relevant. They offer a warning to humanity about the dangers of conformity and show us that we need to be careful about who or what we trust and give our allegiance to.
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