Body Snatchers (1993):

The political (Siegel) made satirical (Kaufman) made spiritual (Abel Ferrara): The invasion hasn't been stopped, it's just waiting for the right artist every two decades for vehement study. The extraterrestrial conspiracy is set in an Alabama military base, a canny joke (out of The Invaders by Larry Cohen arriving at Nicholas St. John by way of Stuart Gordon) compounded by the casting of R. Lee Ermey. Gabrielle Anwar is the alienated, teenaged heroine, transplanted to what looks like the Martian landscape with father Terry Kinney, stepmother Meg Tilly and stepbrother Reilly Murphy; a grunt grabs her at the gas station for a curious omen ("they get you when you sleep"), the family arrives at their unfurnished new home, the camera silhouettes Anwar against a blank wall then follows her to the window, where she spots a desiccated lizard. "I never hide my feelings," she tells helicopter pilot (and Desert Storm vet) Billy Wirth during a confessional game in the smoldering swamp, Ferrara cranes away from the couple, through fog and into the sludge where uniformed humanoids tend to alien pods; elsewhere, Murphy notices the same blotchy mass being drawn by daycare colleagues, and runs home just in time to see slumbering mommy melt into her pillow and an emotionless replica stepping out of the bathroom, naked. Tilly murmurs serenely until the shriek-siren makes her a Munch mask, richly positioned at the end of the spectrum from Forest Whitaker's opulent send-up of top gun fervor ("we'll give 'em hell"). For Ferrara the greatest horrors lurk in our disconnect from ourselves and the world, the film's shocks spiral out of the moments when characters come to face literally empty shells of their existences, viscous tendrils that invade and bastardize (thus desecrate) the notion of birth. Perfection is pernicious to a director whose genius proceeds from the fearlessness of his seams, and a reassuring studio piece would been an alien pod of Ferrara's dissonant universe -- sci-fi is grandly rattled by jagged widescreen compositions, shifts and tilts in lighting and angle, the thirst for retribution, like all of Ferrara's dark emotions, as "only human." With Christine Elise, G. Elvis Phillips, and Kathleen Doyle.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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