Thursday, October 20, 2016

BODY SNATCHERS (1993) (Blu-ray Review)

Label: Warner Archive
Rating: R
Duration: 87 Minutes
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.40:1)
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional English Subtitles
Director: Abel Ferrara
Cast:  Gabrielle Anwar, Terry Kinney, Billy Wirth, Forest Whitaker, Meg Tilly, Reilly Murphy, Christine Elise, R. Lee Ermey, Kathleen Doyle, G. Elvis Phillips

Abel Ferrara directed this adaptation of the original Jack Finney novel source material,one that overlooked beyond reason in my opinion. The story has screenwriting contributions from some genre heavy-hitters including Larry Cohen (The Stuff) and Stuart Gordon (From Beyond), who ingeniously transported the story onto a military base, one of the most conformist environments imaginable, which makes for an eerie setting to be sure, for if everyone is already a conformist how do you know when they've been turned into an alien clone? 

In the modern update we have EPA inspector Steve Malone (Terry Kinney) arriving on a military base in Alabama run by Gen. Platt (R. Lee Ermey), Malone is there to investigate any environmental effects caused by a chemical weapons storage facility to the surrounding area, which doesn't sit to well with Platt. Along with Malone are his wife Carol (Meg Tilly), young son Andy (Reilly Murphy) and teen daughter Marti (Gabrielle Anwar). While Malone makes his rounds taking soil and water sample around the base he receives the stink-eye from everyone, while young Andy becomes convinced that his classmates are creepy clones after a bizarre fingerpainting assignment. Marti befriends the rebellious Jenn (Christine Elise) who just happens to be the daughter of the base commander and the two bond quickly, sharing a mutual distaste for authority and the claustrophobic military base lifestyle. 

A creepy encounter at a gas station on the way to the base informs us that something is wrong right away, but as the family settle in on the base things get more creepy, beginning with Jenn's alcoholic mother who succumbs to the now familiar alien pod menace becoming an oddly Stepford Wives type mom who begins playing bridge with the other base moms, which is not typical behavior for the heavy drinker, setting off all sorts of alarms for Jenn. Then there is the base psychologist Major Collins (Forest Whitaker) who notices an abundance of paranoia amongst the soldiers on the base, he asks Malone early on if that could have anything to do with the chemicals that might be seeping into the soil on the base, but Steve assures him that those are not any symptoms he would associate with these particular chemicals, though it soon becomes apparent that something strange is happening on the base, as the soldiers are replaced by replicating pods. 

The movie carries over much of the paranoia from the previous incarnations of the story, including dump trucks going from house to house with the new alien-impersonators tossing the husks of their human hosts into the trash heap, which was always something that chilled me in the Kaufman version. This being the 90s the special effects have been somewhat upgraded, there's is thankfully not a lot of reliance on digital effects which were in their infancy at the time, instead we get some great pod designs with elongated tendrils that wrap themselves around the host before assimilating them, most of it is good stuff. Particularly effective is a scene in a infirmary where we witness the varying stages of the transformation, including what happens when the process is halted before it can finish, more good stuff. 

About the only effects that didn't work for me was a poorly composited shot of someone falling from a helicopter towards the ends which made me chuckle, but that Ferrara was able to make the process of transformation so creepy and visceral is an accomplishment, though nothing here affected me as much as the scene in the '78 version in the backyard where the pods nearly snatch Sutherland's character, though a few come close, including a scene of Marti being cloned while asleep in the bathtub, a well-staged scenario during which we see how the clones are birthed from the pods. Also love that they keep the alien clones screech when they spot a human, there's a nice call back to the iconic end to the '78 version here. 

This version of the story is overlooked as both an adaptation of the source material, a 90s horror entry and in the Ferrara canon, it is worth seeking this one out and adding it to your collection. The movie has been upgraded to Blu-ray from Warner Archive with a new 2K scan of the interpositive in the original aspect ratio for the first time since the laserdisc! The image looks crisp with nice clarity and depth, a layer of fine film grain is intact and well-resolved while colors are appropriately vibrant when called upon. A lot of this movie takes place at night in the dark so it is wonderful that the black levels and shadow detail are so strong and deep. Audio on the disc comes y way of surround DTS-HD MA track and sounds great, well-balanced and crisp. The score from composer Joe Delia is really good, adding an extra layer of dread and paranoia to the proceedings. The disc includes optional English subtitles are provided. 

I love the A/V on the disc, no complaints whatsoever in those areas, this comes highly recommended. I do regret that we don't get any additional extras such as deleted scenes or interviews with the cast and crew, an Abel Ferrara commentary would have been appreciated, but to have an HD upgrade in the correct aspect ratio is pretty fantastic.