Body Snatchers
Warner Bros. // R // $21.99 // October 18, 2016
Review by Ian Jane | posted October 11, 2016
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version

The Movie:

Directed by Abel Ferrara and based on a story by Larry Cohen with a screenplay from Stuart Gordon, Nicholas St. John and Dennis Paoli, 1993's Body Snatchers starts with a car ride. Here a teenaged girl named Marti Malone's (Gabrielle Anwar) internal narration tells us how she and her father Steve (Terry Kinney), step-mother Carol (Meg Tilly) and younger brother Andy (Reilly Murphy) travelled one summer to a military base in the south. Steve landed a job out there working for the E.P.A. and they were to be put up at a military base. They stop to fill up for gas on the way and Marti is accosted by a man in military fatigues in the bathroom who warns her ‘they come for you when you sleep' but when Steve and the attendant go back to look for the man, he's gone.

Nevertheless, the Malone family arrives and settles in. Things seem fine at first. Marti hit's it off with Jenn (Christine Elise), the daughter of General Platt (R. Lee Ermey), and Steve and Carol have no trouble adapting to their new surroundings. Things do get odd when Andy feels ostracized by his pre-school class when his painting is not the same as theirs. He runs away and is brought back to the house by a helicopter pilot named Tim (Billy Wirth), and before you know it he and Marti have hit it off in a big way. At one point, Major Collins (Forest Whitaker) interrupts Steve's work to ask him if the chemicals on the base could have psychosomatic effects. It seems that the infirmary is full lately of people who seem paranoid, like they might be seeing things that just aren't real. When Andy starts to tell people that Carol isn't his mother, that he knows his mother is dead, nobody pays it any mind… but soon enough Marti realizes what's really happening here.

Ferrara's film spends the first half hour with character development, letting us get to know the various players involved in all of this before then unleashing a pretty intense wave of science fiction tinged horror in the last half of the picture. This does take a while to find its stride, but once it does it turns out to be a pretty damn solid slice of genre fare. It doesn't deviate much from the established formula laid down in the 1956 original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers film or the remake from 1978, but it does take things to its own unique setting and for that reason stands on its own as a worth companion piece to either one of those excellent pictures.

Performances are good. Forest Whitaker is a bit underused but his character is definitely memorable, particularly once the paranoia inherent in the film's premise creeps up on him. R. Lee Ermey's role is also more of a supporting part but if you need someone to play a General, Ermey's a pretty safe choice and he delivers here. Christine Elise as the bratty general's daughter is charming in her own way while Billy Wirth is fine as the strong, silent type. Meg Tilly is also pretty solid here, her character arc is important to the effectiveness of the film's last half and she doesn't disappoint. Child actor Reilly Murphy is also fine. Terry Kinney seems nice enough as the dad but is a little generic here. He and the film's true lead, Gabrielle Anwar, share a couple of moments that embody typical teenager/parent conflict and they should resonate more than they do, but he's fine, just unremarkable. Anwar herself is pretty good, however. She's attractive in an unorthodox sort of way, her eyes are very expressive and Ferrara exploits this a few times by focusing on that particular feature.

Despite the fact that anyone with even an inkling of sci-fi or horror movie knowledge will know where this is going, there are moments that definitely stand out. The finale that takes place is handled well, a nice mix of action and horror, and some of the scenes where the human characters are ‘taken' remain genuinely creepy both on a visual and conceptual level. The visuals are slick and polished and the film has a pretty good score too. All in all, this one works quite well.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

Body Snatchers arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Archive framed at 2.35.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded transfer and generally speaking it looks very nice. This is a movie that spends a lot of time in the dark so it's to the disc's benefit that shadow detail stays strong and there are no issues with any heavy crush. Detail is typically really nice throughout, not only in close up shots but medium and long distance shots as well. Color reproduction looks spot on and skin tones are nice and natural. There are no obvious problems with noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts and the image is quite clean, showing no print damage outside of the occasional white speck.

Sound:

The only audio option on the disc is a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, there are no alternate language options provided and removable subtitles are offered up in English only. Channel separation here is quite strong, the rear channels being used not only to spread out the score and the effects but occasionally some dialogue placement as well. Levels are nicely balanced throughout and there are no problems with any hiss or distortion. Dialogue remains clear, succinct and easy to follow throughout the movie while bass response is strong without overpowering anything in the higher end.

Extras:

The only extra on the disc is the film's original theatrical trailer. Static menu and chapter stops are available.

Final Thoughts:

Abel Ferrara's Body Snatchers isn't as strong as the 1956 and 1978 versions but judged by its own merits it is a creepy and effective mix of science fiction and horror. The film is well-paced, building nicely in the first half before going all out in the second half, and the effects stand up well. The performances are good and there are a few memorable set pieces here that will stick with you when it's all over. Warner's Blu-ray looks and sounds very nice and even if it is very light on extras, this release comes recommended.



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