Not rated. It's a 1956 horror movie. Aliens from space stuff. I would say that this one might be more troubling than traditional invasion faire, but it isn't like this is going to wreck anybody. The performances are haunting, but the gore is limited to destroying pod people duplicates. Also, one of the character gets a cut on his hand. A cut. On his hand. It's fine.
DIRECTOR: Don Siegel
Today's lesson is one of political bias. Good science fiction is supposed to be a commentary on who we are as people. I would lump Invasion of the Body Snatchers in as some pretty great science fiction. Sure, I might enjoy the 1978 remake a little more in terms of quality, but 1956 is a haunting time in America's history. While there is no one specific read on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I'm going to be taking a couple of things for granted. We're looking at McCarthyism and fear of communists here. This movie is prime time for that kind of stuff going on in American history. From any perspective, imagine sitting down in a theater in 1956 and watching this movie without seeing the fear of communism in every element. People that you knew and trusted are all of the sudden acting differently? They want to change your way of thinking? The hero of the story is trying to beg people to think for themselves. I mean, there's Twilight Zone and then there's Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
I find the era of McCarthyism one of the most scary moments in American history. Well, I find it one of the scariest moments in American history until the era I decided to live through today. (I'm not a time traveler...) Last time I wrote about the evils of McCarthyism, one of my readers tried to set me straight on how McCarthy may have had a point and I got the real wiggins after that. But my big thought in watching something that was meant to be pro-McCarthy propaganda was how my political bias allowed the story to work against Trumpians. I stress my own personal biases because I know that Trump's America could also be using the same film against me and my support for Joe Biden. (At the time of writing this, it is two days after the election and Nevada is just taking its sweet time releasing poll numbers.) So be aware, as much as I work to not be bias, there's no such thing. I have to critique myself at the same time. That being said, I'm going to write under the umbrella that I'm aware of my bias and am still writing the following.
I mean, what the heck happened America? People I thought were good people are very cool with some awful things because President Donald Trump, a bankrupt reality show host, told them so. I've become more political in the past four years than I ever thought that I could be. I have seen him do some absolutely abhorrent things and people keep telling me that "He's just telling it like it is." I always thought that the presidency was always about holding the guy in office to task, whether he be your guy or no. But I'm watching people try to spin disgusting things into moral victories and I don't know what's going on. Yeah, I know that people aren't literal pod people, but the embracing of vitriol completely baffles me. Part of the argument that Trump makes is that everything that is critical of him is fake news. He says it about everything and people believe him. But they watch what he says on Fox News and still believe it. It's kind of like a mix of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (I brought the train back to the tracks!) and They Live!.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers was meant to embrace cultural themes, but as proven by completely inverted politics, there's something fundamentally universal about this story. It always feels a bit icky to write off friends and neighbors using hyperbolic ideas like pod people. But sometimes, a science fiction answer provides a better response than people being fundamentally immoral. (Again, from the film's perspective, I'm the ultimate pod person because I'm documenting all these progressive ideas for other people to read. I'm borderline kidnapping conservatives and asking them to join me.) But maybe that answer is easier. It's so hard to grasp why people can ignore objective evil. As a Catholic, we're supposed to be about objective truth. While Trump may do some things that I really believe in as a Catholic, like contesting abortion laws in this country, he's doing so many more awful things that are fundamentally anti-Catholic. And that's where Body Snatchers comes in. It's the willing acceptance of everything without criticism of anything. I think it is possible to say that one can vote for Trump, but hold him to task for the bad stuff. It's the Trump Train stuff that makes no sense to me.
The rules of Invasion of the Body Snatchers are weird to me. I mean, I love the "get woke" metaphor running throughout the story. Evil comes when you are sleeping and relaxed, so always stay awake and alert is cool. But are characters never ever allowed to sleep again. Is Dr. Miles J. Binnell doomed from moment one of the story? I mean, he has to sleep sometime. A Nightmare on Elm Street has confirmed that. So in my head, it was those pods that became the duplicates. But Becky Driscoll falls asleep in the most troubling scene in the whole movie and wakes up as a pod person. Do people swap bodies? Like, if someone wanted to make a duplicate of me, would I wake up in a plant version of myself after I woke up? Do they kill me after that? I don't...I don't understand. Like, it's very haunting to have Becky wake up and narc on Miles. That's cool. It's also cool that all these duplicates try talking the OG versions of us to join them. But I'm pretty sure Jack fell asleep for a second when the pod corpse was on the table and he was fine for a while. If someone could explain the rules to me and not try to convince me that Biden's the worst and "Yay Trump", I would appreciate it.
I love me some allegory. While Invasion of the Body Snatchers has some problematic allegory, it really works for a sci-fi horror movie. It also really rocks considering that I'm reevaluating my relationships with a lot of people in the wake of this election.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.