Body Snatchers (1993) – Abel Ferrara


My time with the Sci-Fi Chronicles book continues as I examine the next iteration of the classic sci-fi tale of the Body Snatchers with this 1993 update. This version features Gabrielle Anwar in the lead supported by Meg Tilly, Forest Whitaker and R. Lee Ermey.

Anwar is young teenager Marti Malone, who is on her way to her new home, alongside her EPA-employed father, Steve (Terry Kinney), step-mother, Carol (Tilly) and her kid step-brother Andy (Reilly Murphy). Steve has been assigned to an Army base in Alabama to conduct an investigation to make sure things are safe, and procedures are being followed.

But Marti quickly receives a disturbing warning, that they get you while you sleep, and we are off on another version of the well-known invasion story. Unfortunately it is coupled with a truly un-needed narration that oversimplifies everything, and serves to make sure you understand what is going all the time so that you aren’t required to think on your own.

This is unfortunate, because it could have been played without it, and heightened the sense of mystery, and add more than a suggestion of paranoia.

There are some nice shorts though, all the silhouetted army personnel watching everything, seemingly all the time, giving the suggestion that things aren’t quite right. This is especially noticeable when Whitaker’s Major Collins is trying to clue in Steve that something very odd is going on here, all while under the watchful eye of armed forces. There’s also a nice scene in a daycare where all the children draw exactly the same picture, unasked, except for Andy, who then starts to clue in that something is very wrong here.

BODY SNATCHERS, Gabrielle Anwar, 1993, (c)Warner Bros.
BODY SNATCHERS, Gabrielle Anwar, 1993, (c)Warner Bros.

The entire base is run by General Platt (Ermey), so not a huge stretch of character for him, but it’s always nice to see him on film, with Christine Elise playing the stereotypical rebellious general’s daughter.

Then, of course, there is the need to shoe in and hint of a love story, with a chopper pilot Tim (Billy Wirth) falling for Marti, whom her father points out, is underage…

The pod tendrils don’t fare much better in this film, following in the footsteps of the ’78 version is tough, but these ones look more like spaghetti noodles.

The highlight is Tilly, because she gets to play Creepy Mom after Carol is taken over. She gets to do some of the best things in the film… she gets to give this truly unnerving speech, about how there is nowhere to go, and she gets to put her twist on the now famous Body Snatcher scream. Her reveal happens way to quickly, and could have been played for greater scares, but that doesn’t stop her from being the best part of this adaptation.

Would you believe there is actually one more version coming up?


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