Prime Video movie of the day: Invasion of the Body Snatchers is still scary in our increasingly divided age

 Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

Some of the best sci-fi movies aren't really about the future: it's about the here and now. And there are few better examples of that then Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The original 1956 movie may be dated in terms of its visuals, but it's still utterly chilling in its portrayal of a world where everybody looks normal but has lost their humanity. And the 1978 remake, which you can stream on Prime Video, does a fantastic job of updating its look without losing the chills.

The remake stars Donald Sutherland and takes it from the small town America of the 1950s to late-seventies San Francisco, a setting that still feels timely today. And it shares its claustrophobic, paranoid vibe with much of the era's American cinema, where filmmakers used movies as a queasy mirror of real-life social and societal decay. It's not as scary now as it was at the time, but in an era of social media radicalization, it's surprisingly current. You can go online and find pod people pretty much instantly.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a remake done right

Watching the original now it, like many movies of the 50s, feels very hammy and a little bit camp. The remake hasn't dated so badly, and has plenty of chilling moments and a camera that prowls. Few of the reviews are online now, but many critics acclaimed the movie as a great example of a remake done right. Empire said it was "for once, a great remake, smartly executed. Great performances and a killing ending that will stay with you forever can't hurt either", while Time Out said that it put the movies of Brian DePalma to shame. The Wall Street Journal said it "gives remakes a good name".

The Ringer hailed the remake as one of the scariest movies of the 1970s, calling it "a gloriously creepy metaphor for modern life." Don't read the review just yet if you want to avoid spoilers, as it goes into a lot of plot details. But it's worth rewatching the movie after reading The Ringer's description of the sound design, which is particularly clever and which, the article concludes, means that "like all the best horror movies, Invasion of the Body Snatchers builds from a whisper to a scream".

Writing in the AV Club in a 2007 retrospective, Keith Phipps said: "Set at the intersection of post-Vietnam paranoia and the myopic introspection that became hippiedom's most lasting cultural contribution, the Philip Kaufman-directed Invasion alternates social commentary with impeccably crafted scares."

That social commentary is one of the reasons the film remains so successful, because it's open to interpretation: it's easy to see pod people in whatever social, economic or political movements you personally don't like or understand.

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