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B Is for Body Snatchers

Notice anything different about your loved ones or coworkers lately? Are they acting a little cold and distant all of a sudden? Or perhaps they seem a little too normal? Not to alarm you… but they could be alien pod people sent to Earth to replace us all. Run now, before they snatch your body and make you one of them!

Back in 1956, Invasion of the Body Snatchers kicked off an entire sub-genre of paranoid sci-fi. Don Siegel’s classic saga of plantlike pod aliens replacing humans is often seen as an indictment of the era’s rampant McCarthyism. Since its release, the theme of aliens posing as humans (be they the robotic Cylons or the teacher-infecting space worms from The Faculty ) has become a classic sci-fi trope. The thought that aliens could look exactly like us is, literally, a skin crawler, and has been used to great effect in everything from They Live to V.

Body snatching aliens are an instant method of conveying that something is just not right with the world. Phillip Kaufman’s 1978 Body Snatchers remake could stand alongside All the President’s Men  and The Parallax View  in the pantheon of classic thrillers tinged with conspiracy fears and post-Watergate paranoia. (The themes are so rich that they were revisited again in 1993’s Body Snatchers and 2007’s The Invasion .) In every iteration of Body Snatchers, and also in its many copycats, the alien duplicates play on our fears of conformity and homogenization. In fact, the term “pod people” has come to be short-hand for the loss of free-thinking and individuality.

Recently Battlestar Galatica has played with body snatching theme with its Cylon “sleeper agents,” but a big-screen revisit could definitely tap into the unrest in our current political climate. Last year’s Nicole Kidman-vehicle, Invasion, tried, but ended up a big-budget debacle. Perhaps a more free-thinking director (like, say, David Fincher) could bring body-snatching pod people into the new millennium.

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