So as I'm getting close to having seen all of Abel Ferrara's feature films, Body Snatchers ranks low in the oeuvre, but it's an interesting film nevertheless. The confluence of sensibilities doesn't serve the film--Dennis Paoli and Stuart Gordon (of Re-Animator fame), Nicholas St. John (stalwart screenwriter for early Ferrara), and Larry Cohen (B-level mad genius at large) don't necessarily cohere, and given that this project is a pretty schlocky "job of work" to begin with, even a monstrous talent like Ferrara can't resurrect it. So we've got a weird Frankenstein monster, cobbled together of varying parts, some of them more impressive than others, and appealing to various levels of viewer interest. Some spoilers below.
The Body (Of Course): This film is about the vulnerability of flesh. When a pod person is killed, the "horror" comes less from the fact that they decompose gruesomely than from the fact that they decompose so rapidly. The processes of decay are fast-forwarded. The Cronenbergian process in which one is "drained" into a pod person is a direct and palpable appeal to the sensation of nocturnal helplessness. These body snatchers are nightmares you don't know you have.
Family Matters: Here is also an adolescent fantasy about shunning one's family, and yet that fantasy is disavowed--she's only able to shun each family member successfully, guiltlessly when they have become pod people.
Military Intelligence?: The film's distrust of authority is a fractured, incomplete political stance that informs elements but not the whole of the narrative. Still, the horror is of a highly regimented society. Whereas Don Siegel's The Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a parable of McCarthyism, this is a much vaguer expression of fear at a police state: residues of a Reagan America in which little "went wrong" like this on home soil.
The Tragically Ludicrous / The Ludicrously Tragic: When the little brother is thrown from the helicopter below he sounds the pod alarm (heard three times previously in the film) as he falls to his death. Here is a young child emitting a sirenlike scream, the diligent frenzied emission of concern for the colony's mission, as he plummets to his death. Who could react to this image with anything other than humor?
I'm presenting on New Rose Hotel in just a few days, and I'm terrified.