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Friday, October 7, 2016

HubrisWeen 4, Day 2: Body Snatchers (1993)

HubrisWeen is a 26-day blogging marathon where a seasonally-appropriate movie gets reviewed every day from October 6 to the 31st in alphabetical order. Click on the banner above this message to go to the central site and see what Checkpoint Telstar and the other participants are covering today.

Screen story by Raymond Cistheri and Larry Cohen; screenplay by Stuart Gordon & Dennis Paoli and Nicholas St. John; based on the novel The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney
Directed by Abel Ferrara

Terry Kinney:  Steve Malone
Meg Tilley:  Carol Malone
Gabrielle Anwar:  Marti Malone
Reilly Murphy:  Andy Malone

Christine Elis:  Jenn Platt
Billy Wirth:  Tim Young

Forest Whittaker:  Major Collins
R. Lee Ermey:  General Platt

It's a great sick joke of a premise:  Alien plants are duplicating people and turning them into emotionless drones that follow orders (just as we've seen in the 1956 version where small town America is under assault in the 1978 one where life in the big city means you don't know your neighbors well enough to tell if they're the same person day to day). But this time it's on a military base, so the end result is an obedient simulacrum in perfect physical condition that obeys its superiors unquestioningly. How could you tell a pod person from a real one if everyone's supposed to be like that already?

Last year's HubrisWeen entry for I was the dismal-ass The Invasion; I've decided to go back in time with this series so that HubrisWeen 2018 will let me review the original treatment of the material. This time around with the letter I freed up, I'm hoping to hit either I, Madman or I Bury the Living, depending on whether I'm in the mood for Eighties cultural trash or the Fifties flavor of the same thing and which DVDs I can get. As a side note, yes, it's true:  I really don't plan that far ahead when I'm doing this project. Usually to my detriment.

This is one of those DVDs so bare-bones it doesn't even have a menu; that's a good sign as far as I'm concerned because it generally means that the studio didn't quite know what to make of the film. The first thing I reviewed for the Checkpoint (three and a half years ago as of this writing; good grief!) was the similiarly non-features-enhanced Colossus:  The Forbin Project. Perhaps your host is simply grasping at straws and the movie's going to suck, but at the outset of a project like HubrisWeen you take all the good news you can get, fictitious or otherwise. I've never seen an Abel Ferrara movie before, so I can't say if that's a good sign or a bad one.

I will say I like the title sequence, where the letters in BODY SNATCHERS are overwhelmed by shadowy duplicates and it's hard to discern them after they've been absorbed--they're still there, but not the same. And I noticed the name "Billy Wirth" in the credits; I remember watching him as a contestant on American Gladiators back when that particular piece of cultural garbage was a going concern. (Note to younger readers:  Some times game shows could be amazing.)

Further good signs:  Larry Cohen and Stuart Gordon were involved in writing this film. Two of the most distinctive voices in horror cinema of the Seventies and Eighties (throw in Don Coscarelli and you'd be certain to strike at least cinema silver if not gold).

We're getting a YA version of the story this time around, with a voiceover from Marti Malone telling the viewer that occasionally things happen beyond human comprehension. She's probably referring to the alien invasion that we're gonna get later on, but from her perspective as a teenage girl "road trip with Dad, stepmom and half brother for two months while your father inspects military bases for EPA compliance" has got to be up there too. Resentment being the natural state of the teenage mind, I think she's taking it pretty well "being stuck in a car with a six-year-old and the woman who replaced your mom".

A stop at one of the requisite creepy gas stations you find in horror films leads to the first scare scene. Well, the first two. The bathroom's a real toilet, as the guy who runs the Ceres Crossroads could tell you. The second one is that a black dude in an Army uniform grabs Marti once she goes into the bathroom and rants at her about how she's displaying fear (which anyone probably would getting thrown up against a wall and your mouth covered by someone who outweighs you by sixty or seventy pounds and has a knife to your throat to boot). He rants about how "they're out there" and "they get you when you sleep". Then he tells Marti to leave, which she does. I probably would have shit my pants as well as someone else's in the same situation, to be honest. Marti just tells her father about the thing that just happened; one of the rednecks at the station has a shotgun and takes point when the menfolk check out what's going on but there's nobody in the bathroom when they do.

Another voiceover from Marti reflects on how vulnerable people are when sleeping, and how much time humans spend out cold and helpless. Then the family arrives at the base and gets checked in by a functionary with a clipboard (I'm not sure if the gate guards moving slowly and purposefully is setting off my paranoia alarms accurately or not, because one assumes that's how soldiers would handle things. See above re:  the fantastic pitch-black humor behind the movie's premise.) The shot when the family walks to their guest quarters on the base isolates Marti as she walks slower than the rest of her family, and also looks around her. If she's going to be our viewpoint character, it's nice to see that she's smart enough to carry that responsibility.

The house that the Malones are assigned to is pretty drab and ordinary-looking, with some more bad news for Marti:  There are two bedrooms, so she's bunking with her brother for the duration. Also there's a dead lizard on the windowsill. Probably she's more irritated with the "don't get your own room" situation, because you can remove the lizard. She goes for a walk and gets surrounded by five soldiers pretty much instantaneously after going to a "restricted area". Maybe put some signs up or something, Army guys? I bet you could get plenty of signs if you wanted them. It's another neat little "is this really some place civilians are not allowed to go to or are they pod people" moments. I'm wondering how this would have played out if it were possible to release a Body Snatchers movie without telling people that's what it was--I knew from before the first frame of the movie what I'd be getting but to be able to blindside people with the pod creatures as a plot twist? That would be pretty boss.

Before anything more ominous than some soldiers standing by her can happen, Jenn Platt drives up in a red convertible and tells Marti to get in; they leave and one of the soldiers picks up a set of dentures that was lying in the road (but neither they--nor the movie--makes anything of this other at the time). Jenn's wearing a leather jacket and swears, so she's good people. She's also the daughter of the base's commanding officer as it turns out (and I like the idea of the general having a daughter named Jenn). At the Platt residence, Jenn's mom is out cold on the sofa, cigarette burning in her fingers and an unfinished glass of vodka on the rocks on the coffee table. Jenn says her father's an insomniac, which is a survival trait in a pod-person movie. I'm guessing that when we see Jenn and her mother in the second act, they'll be much more subdued and also not displaying any of their current bad habits. Everyone has to be a little bit extreme when introduced in these kinds of movies so that they don't have to oversell the robotic drone nature later.

As darkness falls (and Mrs. Platt doesn't stir on the couch), there's some creepy scuttling noises that the horror movie experts in the audience would likely describe as "plantlike", but it's probably a Foley guy crinkling audio tape or something. Elsewhere on the base, a soldier complaining that his kids are treating him like a stranger and wants to know what everyone's doing in his home when he gets there--we never see his face or get a name for him, so he's just a Threat-Establishing Casualty captured in his natural habitat (fatally dangerous circumstances). Then it's back to the Malone house, where Steve and Carol are about to try and have sex in their newly-claimed bed when six-year-old Andy interrupts them. He had a bad dream, and his biological mom and father (Mark II) tell him there's nothing to worry about. Then, because it's a horror film, there's a soldier outside struggling and protesting as two more soldiers haul him into a base truck and drive away. And because none of the Malones realize how much danger they're in (and because there are dozens of mundane explanations for what everyone might have been doing) the scene ends there.

General Platt (played by military character actor MVP R. Lee Ermey, and who should have played J. Jonah Jameson in the James Cameron version of The Amazing Spider-Man that never got made) is talking to Steve Malone, telling the EPA man that if you didn't have any military experience you wouldn't know anything about biological or chemical warfare agents. He says it's safer to leave whatever the hell is there on the base in its warehouses than it would be to move the materials off-site to be neutralized (and he has a point there--a paperwork error in shipping that stuff could have huge and unforeseen consequences). Steve tells him that if the chemicals are being stored safely then the general's got nothing to worry about, which Platt does not take particularly well (one assumes that when you reach the rank of General, the list of people who can tell you to do something is extremely small, and some out-of-town bureaucrat with no military history is ordinarily nowhere to be found on that list). Platt details a captain to assist Steve with his sample-taking specifically so it'll get the interloper off his base as soon as humanly possible. Well, at least he's complying.

While Steve (who gets called "Mr. Malone" rather than, say "Dr. Malone") is taking water samples, Major Collins shows up to talk to him. Major Collins is the head of the medical unit on the base and thinks that there may have been a chemical leak somewhere. He wants to know what exposure to the various types of weaponized chemicals could do to people; Steve tells him that any one of a number of devastating physical symptoms could occur--it's not just a single barrel labeled TOXIC GOOP in a warehouse somewhere, but rather a bunch of different concoctions that were each developed to hurt or kill people. Hopefully none of them are stored in a leaky drum.

The major isn't talking about physical effects, though. He wants to know if accidental exposure to anything stored on-site could cause paranoid episodes, schizophrenic breakdowns and narcophobia. Steve isn't sure; he's a chemist, not a psychologist or psychiatrist. Collins gives Steve a little more information--not only are there lots of people showing up at the infirmary having delusional episodes, they're all having nearly identical ones--people are afraid to sleep and have been having paranoid responses to family members or friends; it's a very consistent set of fixations, and one that would be at least theoretically explainable if everyone having them accidentally ingested the same chemical that could have caused them. Unfortunately, nothing that Steve's looking for would explain those delusions. Collins requests regular updates from the EPA man, but not for any sinister reason--he just wants to help the soldiers on his base and any information that can help him is extremely welcome.

The closeups of the two men are framed just like you'd expect in this sequence, but the long shots show a row of shadows from a trio of unmoving soldiers watching (and listening?) from a distance. It's a great way to establish menace and to show that both Malone and Major Collins don't see what is literally right next to them, watching and taking notes.

And it looks like I'm wrong about that lack of a doctorate for Steve Malone, because in the next scene there's soldiers dropping off boxes of equipment for him at his house. I can see why General Platt wouldn't have used the title but I guess I would have thought Major Collins would have been a more respectful person, educated man to educated man. Maybe nobody told him. The equipment comes in identically sized taped-up cardboard boxes with "FRAGILE" written on them in exactly the same spot, which is another great little detail for viewers to notice. And speaking of noticing, Marti would like to know why it's necessary to drop a box off in her father's bedroom. The soldiers quietly leave after the delivery is complete and even though one of them has a clipboard, Marti doesn't sign for anything.

Another great little atmospheric scene occurs next:  In the base school, a kindergarten teacher is doing an art project, where the kids are fingerpainting. The ones that hold up a pink blob with green smeary streaks all through it get praised. Andy Malone, the new kid on base, has a different pattern on his paper and gets silently noticed. He tries to run away from "the bad people" but gets noticed for being six years old and not in the Army as he goes past a training field and brought back to his parents. While that's going on, a garbage truck picks up suspiciously small identical black trash sacks from multiple people (another detail that suggests something awful going on behind all those identical closed doors).

Tim, the friendly (and almost certainly not-yet-duplicated) helicopter pilot who drops Andy off at home makes nice with Marti, who suddenly finds that there's at least one nice thing about the enforced working vacation that she's on. The pilot tells her that there's a single club "on Route 8", the Top Gun. Looks like she'll be meeting him there later. Or sooner, if Marti has anything to say about it. And hey, it's nice to see another Tim around (even if he's better looking than me, younger, and knows how to fly a helicopter. Well, let's see his 22,000 word analysis of the Atlas Shrugged movies and then I can feel superior). Unfortunately, while she was getting blindsided by Tim's politely masculine charms, Marti missed out on a clue that means a hell of a lot to the audience--the identical kids at day care and the teacher wanted Andy to go to sleep while he was there.

His parents are clueless about the real danger to Andy (as they should be, honestly--this appears to be a movie about the first Invasion of the Body Snatchers rather than telling the story of the the third one). Steve says the sooner that Andy goes back to class the sooner he can make a bunch of brand new friends. He's right, but he better hope that it doesn't happen. That conversation gets derailed when Jenn Platt shows up to take Marti out and "show her around", which probably means going to that club (or just sneaking off somewhere and getting baked). Though Jenn promises to have Marti back by midnight and that they're just going to the base rec center, the next shot after they leave the Malone house is Jenn's red convertible pulling up to the Top Gun.

The club is virtually empty and silent when the two girls walk in (Marti's square enough that she worries about forgetting her ID back at the house; Jenn accurately points out that the bar is not going to care at all). One beer-swilling loser asks if either of the girls wants to dance and then it's time to talk to Tim and Pete, the guys who retrieved Andy earlier. Pete and Jenn are apparently a thing, and Marti and Tim already met, so introductory chitchat will be kept to a minimum. Jenn and Pete go off to play pool while Tim and Marti order a couple beers. Then a pair of MPs in full uniform walk in, which cannot be good news even when there isn't a pod person invasion going on. It's even less good news when one of the interlopers is the dude who pulled a knife on Marti earlier. And it's even less good news than that when he's a calm, emotionless person who claims not to know what Marti's talking about when she explains why she flinched when he walked in. The MP strongly suggests that Tim take Marti home because she's had too much to drink (before their beers were even served) and Marti knows that a woman in a threatening situation just has to say "I guess I made a mistake" and someone in a position of authority will let her escape that situation.

She goes for a walk with Tim and gives some of her back story:  Her mother died when she was seven years old and she's never quite gotten over her grief. But to keep the evening to be a total downer she starts playing a "getting to know someone" game where people declare they've never done something and if the other person has, they lose a point. Last one standing wins the game, but both people know more about each other by the end of it. There's plenty of extremely tight closeups on Marti and Tim during this game, and that means plenty of chances for the actors to do some subtle emoting. Watching either one of them be shy or flirtatious means that it'll be a contrast with the pod people later on, and it's also a demonstration of what they (on the small scale) and humanity (on the macro scale) are going to lose once the alien takeover is complete. The game ends with a kiss, a connection made between two people who wouldn't have met if it weren't for an accident of scheduling and an alien invasion. And the camera pans away from their romance to show a bunch of soldiers pulling plant pods out of a nearby swamp. They're moving quietly and methodically (and the mastering on the DVD meant that some of this shot was completely incomprehensible--the lighting was too low for me to tell what was actually going on, but I'm gonna blame the conversion process more than Ferrara or his cinematographer on that one. They've built up plenty of good will with me so far.

Oh, and the pods are squeaking as they get hauled out of the water and placed in the bed of a pickup truck. Maybe that's how the duplicates know how they're ready to go.

Special effects advances since 1978 (and 1956) as well as Abel Ferrara's willingness to go there inform the next scene--little Andy tries to wake his mother up the next morning and watches her body crumble inward in a horrifying display. The Pod Mom walks into the room from the bedroom closet when Andy screams, completely nude, and doesn't make any attempt to cover herself. We've seen that the duplicates don't feel emotions before, but the complete lack of embarrassment at this point from Carol is really something else. It's also a nude scene in a horror movie meant to be the exact opposite of titillation, so anyone that catches this movie based on the R rating gets exactly what they thought they wanted. And now we all know what was in those garbage sacks that were being collected earlier...

And, in one of the common plot points in a horror or science fiction flick with a child character, Andy says the absolute truth (he saw his mother's head collapse into a pile of boneless, dessicated flesh and that thing walking downstairs that looks like her isn't Carol Malone) but isn't believed. Because, after all, that's not a believable thing. Andy runs screaming from the house, his father in pursuit, just as the jeep with Tim, Marti, Jenn and Pete pulls up. Just what Steve needs at this particular point in his life; he tells Tim not to come by any more because his daughter's too young to drink (among any of the other leisure activities that Tim and Marti might have been planning on). Everyone's already nice and stressed out and Steve doesn't know what he should actually be worried about, so it's time for an argument with Marti rather than a look at the actual threat--that nobody but the six-year-old who has been acting out and doing weird stuff since they arrived on base knows about. To the film's credit, every character that tries to tell Andy he just had a bad dream is acting rationally and understandably from their own perspective.

And, of course, Marti, Andy and Steve are all going to be sulking, angry and focusing inward at the exact moment where paying attention to the danger in their lives and facing it with a unified front is a matter of life and death. (The breakfast scene the next morning is a small masterpiece of ways for people who know each other how to push everyone's buttons and get on their nerves.) But the scene ends with Steve--thinking he's being considerate and sensitive to his stepson's needs--asking Andy if he'd rather go to day care or stay home with his mother that day. I'm not sure which option would be worse for the poor kid. And the patient smile from Carol when Steve looks over to her when Andy says his mother's dead is pretty chilling.

So of course the next thing we see are pallets stacked high with 55 gallon steel drums, all of them stenciled with skull-and-crossbones warning signs and also obviously corroded and leaking. Steve's in there taking samples (in a full body biohazard suit and gas mask) while someone on a forklift drops two barrels of toxic shit that spray corrosive fluid all over one poor son of a bitch. It eats through his suit and starts to work on his leg; Steve sees it happening and wonders why the soldiers aren't running to get an ambulance and a really, really big sack of kitty litter to soak up the acid on the warehouse floor.

Before we can see what's going on at the acid spill, Marti gets let into the Platt house by Jenn's mom, who is silent (and awake, and sober). Jenn is freaked out by it, because there's never been anything but vodka in one of her mother's drinking glasses as far as she can remember. Who would have thought a glass of tap water would be so ominous? Mrs. Platt and four other Stepford Wives leave to play bridge (which is a four person game, and which Mrs. Platt doesn't know how to play). Unfortunately, the rebellious daughter of the biggest authority figure in the area won't be able to express any concern without people thinking she's either trying to get a rise out of them or acting out in a previously unseen manner. And "my mom is sober and polite" isn't exactly the kind of thing that sounds alarms when people hear it.

Back at the warehouse, Steve's too curious about what he saw during the accident to let it rest. Whatever he saw oozing out of the injured soldier's leg, it wasn't blood. So he snips some of the damaged suit's fibers--covered with a weird green liquid--off and does the tests he can do in the field, but doesn't know what it is any more than when he started. He calls a colleague back at a desk job and says he wants "the full GCMS" done on the mystery gunk when he sends it back to the EPA for analysis. Dr. Malone's a professional chemist and he has no idea what the stuff is, which he finds more frightening than the spill that caused it to manifest.

Marti and Andy try to talk about what's been going on; Andy's stepsister tries to comfort him by saying that when her dad's done with his chemical-testing job they're leaving the base. Which she can't be thrilled by, since Tim is there, but hopefully it'll make her little stepbrother feel better. He's still fixated on the weirdness he's been witnessing, though, and tells her that when people go to sleep they die. The poor kid winds up shutting down emotionally, knowing that he's doomed if he goes to bed but too powerless to stand up to the thing that used to be his mother. (Marti's off taking a bath and listening to a Walkman, which probably isn't the safest thing to do in the whole entire world). She doesn't see the plant pod in the ceiling that extends tendrils down to her while she nods off in the tub (obviously placed there by Pod Carol). While that's happening, Pod Carol is giving her husband a backrub and promising him that the family strife is going to be over tomorrow completely. Once everyone gets a good night's sleep things will be different and so much better.

Marti wakes up when the tendrils start sliding over her body (and it's a neat effect; the alien plants have translucent tentacles that wind up reaching up Marti's nose to do whatever it is they're going to do--full credit to Gabrielle Anwar for having to be naked in a tub while puppeteers drag slimy F/X puppets over her face. I'm betting they rigged it so that the procedure started with the tentacles in the ending position and then dragged them away, but it's still the kind of acting challenge that Dame Judi Dench probably hasn't been faced with before. And the throbbing, gurgling alien pod is a wonderfully gross creation; we get a nice look at the amniotic sac inside it as it starts growing a brand new Marti. Steve's doomed, too--he's out cold and Pod Carol is watching him get duplicated. It's random chance that saves Marti's life--the pod person above the ceiling tiles grows large enough that it breaks through them and falls onto her; she wakes up screaming and runs for her father, who also wakes up once she starts hauling the tendrils out of his ears, nose and mouth. And (just because we haven't had enough primal childhood fears expressed yet) the horribly malformed incomplete copy of her father grabs her from under the bed.

While Steve takes command of the situation (telling Marti and Andy to get dressed because they are leaving), Pod Carol makes a placid phone call that states their address and nothing else. Which proves the pods aren't telepathic, at least, so there's a chance of escaping from them. Carol asks Steve a really relevant question as he says they've got to go (while still calm, which Dr. Malone utterly is not):  "Go where?". She explains that the attacks on the family are not a single thing happening in a vacuum. Instead, the Malone family is one of many simultaneous victims of the same invading force. There is nowhere to run or hide, because a significant percentage of the people they'd go to for help are already pod duplicates.

She tries to give Steve the soft sell, telling him that all the messy panic and fear he's feeling now will go away forever if he just goes back to sleep--he'll wake up in the morning and they'll be together, and everything will be wonderful again (and stay that way permanently). Steve ain't buying it and runs outside, so it's time for the 1993 version to use an element introduced to the Body Snatchers mythos in the 1978 remake. Pod Carol points at the trio of fleeing family members and gives of an inhumanly loud screech that alerts every other duplicate in the area that there are unconverted humans on the loose. The shot of Marti, Andy and Steve alone in the center of the frame as the neighborhood's identical houses loom around them is pretty damned amazing. And that's before everyone in those houses runs out to chase them down. Only the out-of-nowhere arrival of a few gun toting factory-original humans lets the Malones escape with their lives.

And that much commotion (screaming, gunshots, police sirens) wakes Tim up, who has yet to be turned into a pod person. Though his roommate Pete isn't so lucky. He hasn't had any real dialogue yet and he's the friend to a secondary character. When Tim tries to leave, Pete and two other soldiers with a needle full of sedatives try to stop him (but he's too awesome to be contained, since he's named Tim). And he's in great shape since the military requires that; he's able to run for his life in all the confusion.

Steve stashes his kids in the warehouse full of horribly dangerous chemicals while the base goes insane, then tries to sneak out to get help. He's crafty enough to avoid the big roundup of non-replicant humans that gets announced over a loudspeaker and hides in an office building that happens to contain the openly freaking out Major Collins, who hangs up on a politely helpful operator who knew his name even though he didn't give it, and eats a small handful of pills before pulling a gun on Steve. Major Collins thinks it's too late to escape--what he thought was a series of connected psychotic episodes among base personnel was an attack he didn't perceive until it was too late. Collins stays behind in the building as Steve makes a break for it, calling General Platt "the head cabbage" when he shows up. After the pod people try to convince Collins to surrender peacefully and give up his fear (with the deeply ironic sight of a general in the Army speaking glowingly of world peace under the pod people's influence), Major Collins uses the gun--on himself, to die with his soul and personality intact. I'm sorry Forest Whitaker only had two scenes in the movie, but they were pretty damned good ones.

We do not see this happen but the film implied that the pod duplicates, not realizing Steve was in the building, don't stop him from escaping and he retrieves his kids from the warehouse. In the major's Jeep, driving away at the speed limit, Steve tells his kids that the pods can be fooled into thinking you're already duplicated if you don't show any emotion. Marti starts to suspect that her father was copied and yanks on the emergency brake of the Jeep; Tim shows up with a gun just in time for her to turn the situation really, really awful (having to murder the alien creature that looks like your father can't be good for one's psyche). There's not even enough time to grieve because the gunshot attracts dozens of pod people who start screeching at the fleeing trio.

Unfortunately the mastering of the DVD is a bit problematic here as well, with the shadowy forms of the pursuing soldiers disappearing when the searchlights aren't pointed at them (which is too bad, because that sequence had to take a lot to set up and I'd have liked to see it better). At any rate, Tim says he's going to go steal his helicopter out of the hangar, stop to pick up Marti and Andy, and get the hell out of Dodge. Marti tells Tim that if he acts like one of the duplicates they might not notice him and he jogs off to the hangar (already making a mistake; those things walk when they're not pursuing a human). Petey and a couple other soldiers are already at the hangar, expecting Tim to steal a chopper but he manages to convince them that he's got orders to get in the air with a searchlight and help track down unconverted stragglers. Petey, knowing the pilot the best, says "Just so you know, I fucked your girlfriend," to get a rise out of him, but Tim doesn't rise to the bait.

Once he's got the helicopter ready to go, the Malone kids get scooped up by a patrol of duplicates and loaded into the back of an ambulance truck. Once they get to the infirmary, of course, it's a needle full of sedatives and the total loss of humanity. Tim follows the hospital truck from the air and gets to the infirmary, where several other unduplicated humans are being hauled in for treatment. Newly birthed pod people are shown sweeping up the fine, grainy matter left behind like a double handful of ashes on the cots where the remains of their source humans collapsed. Tim stays frosty and takes advantage of the confusion when a beefy guy starts throwing fists around rather than getting shot up with Seconal and frees Marti from her duplicate's tendrils (which leads to another creepy nude scene as Pod Marti wakes up and dies during the separation). Checking the IMDB reveals that Gabrielle Anwar was 22 when the movie was made, which is a relief because her character is only seventeen.

While Tim and Marti slowly walk out of the infirmary General Platt supervises the routing of several cargo trucks full of pods; each one is being sent out to a different military base for another takeover, and from there it's safe to assume plenty of 18-wheelers will be going out to towns large and small for some discreet distribution of pods and the total eradication of the human race, at least on the American continent. Tim didn't see Andy anywhere in the infirmary and Marti says she's got to go back for him. The issue is moot once Jenn discovers that her friend of the last two days is still human and busts out the shrieking noise. Tim and Marti make a run for his helicopter and flee (but not before Andy runs up and makes it to the chopper door; because two standout grindhouse filmmakers were involved in the story and script he's a pod person, tries to crash the helicopter, and Marti has to pitch him out the open door to his death).

In an ending that starts out going along with the best "we've already lost the battle" alien takeover movies, General Platt says there's no point in trying to stop them because they can't do anything to stop the invasion. Nobody's going to believe a deserter and a teenaged girl talking about alien snot pods turning people into emotionless clones of themselves. The voiceover from the start of the film resumes as Marti says she can barely believe what happened herself, and we get a quick Weightlifter With a Machine Gun ending as Tim empties his rocket pods at the pod trucks and then the military base. Good luck keeping all that fire, death and destruction quiet forever, alien creatures.

Of course, that just means they'll have to be smarter on the second try. And even if Marti and Tim won that particular engagement, both of them lost everyone they've known. And the emotionless voice on the other end of the air traffic radio channel and the bland guy waving the helicopter in for a landing suggest that a significant part of the war was already lost.

Woo! Nothing like a creepy paranoiac tale of alien duplication to keep things going. When I used The Invasion for the "I" movie last year I figured it'd mean four movies picked out and spoken for over the lifespan of the project. Then the podless and pointless 2008 film hurt my feelings and I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. Other than some problems with the image that I really think are much more likely to be the fault of the DVD mastering, there's a lot to really dig in this film. I'm certain at least part of that is to be laid at the feet of Larry Cohen and Stuart Gordon, because they're both extraordinarily talented genre filmmakers who know how story logic works and what audiences want, but also great at tweaking the features of the genre and giving people what they think they wanted (both nude scenes in this film are creepy rather than stimulating, which wasn't what horror fans would have expected back in the early Nineties).

So! Onward with HubrisWeen, and onward with the Body Snatchers movies. Next year I get to treat myself nine movies in with a total masterpiece and I'm quite glad I caught this one. I'll have to check out one of Abel Ferrara's crime thrillers when I get a chance (which will be in November, because HubrisWeen means I'm only going to be watching horror and science fiction for the rest of this month).

"I see you woke me up partway through the duplication process. Nice going, jerk."

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