“Look, you fools, you’re in danger! Can’t you see?! They’re after you! They’re after all of us! Our wives, our children, everyone! They’re here already! You’re next!”
Kevin McCarthy’s character screams this in the original 1956 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” inaugurating one of the most consistently fascinating (though infrequent) series of horror remakes. These films are examined by filmmaker and critic Peet Gelderblom in a new documentary debuting here at RogerEbert.com.
Based on Jack Finney’s novel, Don Siegel’s original black-and-white thriller about aliens taking over unsuspecting humans was a parable of Cold War paranoia. It teases out a pervasive feeling (stoked by right wing propaganda) that the Russians weren’t just coming to take over the United States and grind capitalism into dust, but were already living among unsuspecting patriots, absorbing more of them by the hour. The same-titled 1978 remake, directed by Philip Kaufman, moved the story to San Francisco, the better to satirize the self-help movement and New Age mentality that bloomed at ground zero for Flower Power back in the sixties and then spread around the world.
Eighteen years after that, Abel Ferrara directed “Body Snatchers,” a version set on an Army base that proved to be a perfect capper to a nearly 20-year American quest to put the failure of Vietnam in the past and glorify military might once more. In 2007, Oliver Hirschbiegel directed the least interesting version, subject to extensive reshoots and rewrites that never quite nailed it; and yet even this one is fascinating and often terrifying, attempting a sort of “A Clockwork Orange” message about what happens to humanity when you remove pesky emotions from the equation.
This and all of Peet’s previous video essays and conceptual mash-ups are now grouped under one Vimeo channel called Directorama. Music from the video essay, composed by Peet under the alias Man After Midnight, is available to stream or download for any price you choose on Bandcamp.