It is a delicate balance when it comes to mixing horror films with political messages. One inch too far and the would-be enjoyable scare fest turns into a lecture about the Cold War and conformity. It is also a part of human nature to analyze films to the max while overlooking the enjoyment received from the little things in a film. Ultimately, we could analyze Invasion of the Body Snatchers for its potential commentary on society, but I think it is more important to analyze whether or not it is a genuinely good horror film.
The story revolves around Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) and his group's attempt to thwart the alien lifeforms in their hometown of Santa Mira, California. These aliens come in the form of giant seedpods that create exact duplicates of the humans around them. When someone goes to bed, they never wake up, instead being replaced by an emotionless replica. The thought of this occurring is far-fetched, but it is also terrifying. What if you woke up one day to find your mother or father were not the same person? Most importantly, what if you attempted to tell the world about this problem, only to be told you are crazy? These are all issues with a psychological flair that any human being can relate to which makes this film particularly scary even if it is improbable.
There is never a dull moment in this 80-minute film and the viewer is brought into the town of Santa Mira and can feel the panic that the main characters feel. Just like Dr. Bennell, you begin to wonder who is alien and who is human. The acting is spot on, which further allows you to place yourself into the shoes of the actors. This is not a horror film that revolves around pop-out scares and insane villains. Instead, this is about a tight knit community slowly falling apart. The milkman, the nurses, the gardener, and the love of your life are slowing transforming in the once utopian town you grew up in.
With this transition from beauty to destruction, it seems fitting for an ending that caps off the transformation. I will never give away endings, but if there is one complaint I have about this film, it is its inability to take a risk with an ending that may not please everyone. This is one complaint against numerous positives. Ultimately, any horror fan should watch this film if they are in the mood for a silent, but complex killer that makes us question society and the people we trust the most. In the end, sometimes the most terrifying moments we have in our lives are also the subtlest.
If you liked Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), you might also like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.