The Body Snatchers, a 1954 science-fiction novel by Jack Finney, has been translated to the big screen several times. Its premise of alien spores falling to earth and quickly copying and replacing people with exact duplicates was extremely timely when released in the 1950s. In the era of McCarthyism and political witch hunts, the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers touched a nerve with American audiences.
Surprisingly, Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake effectively updated Finney’s original concept for 1970’s audiences still recovering from the Vietnam War and Watergate. Starring Donald Sutherland, Veronica Cartwright, Leonard Nimoy, and a young Jeff Goldblum, the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers remains a highly suspenseful masterpiece. And this week’s Monday Morning Scare is still one of the most effectively creepy endings in film history.
Source: Fandango Movie Clips
In selecting this scene for this week’s Monday Morning Scare, I recognize that the overall impact of the scene might be lost to some extent without the context of the full film. A huge part of what makes this scene work so well is your identification with the protagonists and their struggle to survive. Nonetheless, the clip still stands well on its own as an illustration of how to build and deliver a good scare. Kaufman creates unease with his contrast of what looks like fairly benign activities and the eerie quiet in the scene. Veronica Cartwright’s look of desperate relief and Sutherland’s blank expression perfectly set up what follows. It’s that pod scream and Sutherland’s exaggerated, inhuman facial expressions that fully delivers the scare. It’s less of a jump scare and more a final haunting image that leaves you feeling unsettled after you turn the movie off.
If you’re a fan of science-fiction/horror hybrids, the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a film that remains both relevant and scary. Don’t go into the movie expecting a lot of loud jump scares – it’s the concept of the film that gets under your skin.