Jezebel Watches ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’: The 1956 Sci-Fi Horror About Seedpods and Political Paranoia

In 2010, a critic wrote that “few modern-day movies are more genuinely frightening." I doubt that, but I'm sold.

Jezebel Watches ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’: The 1956 Sci-Fi Horror About Seedpods and Political Paranoia
Photo:Getty Images

I love scary movies and I love feeling scared. Sadly, I hate remembering said movies days, months, years later, when it’s 2 in the morning and I can’t go to sleep. That is my brain’s favorite time to recall that one scene from Midsommar, every other moment in American Horror Story: Cult, or the trailer for Terrifier 2.

So for Jezebel Watches, I thought I’d ease myself into spooky season this year (I would love to eventually see The Exorcist: Believer in theaters, but that trailer is also already giving me nightmares) by going back to the 1950s—when scary movies all but used construction paper and ketchup to make giant monsters and bloodthirsty demons, and suspense was built with campy piano music.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is based on Jack Finney’s 1955 novel of the same name, and the 1956 film is frequently ranked as one of the top horror films—well, sci-fi horror films—of that decade. The film’s got a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, with one person writing that it “scares the holy piss out of me,” and a Wall Street Journal critic saying that “few modern-day movies are more genuinely frightening.” Another critic wrote that it’s “brilliantly placed, however unwittingly, to illustrate America’s political paranoia from both ends.”

The 1950s was the era of McCarthyism and the Cold War. Let’s see how well this “frightening” film holds up to the paranoias of today.

01:37 – We open on the “Emergency Hospital.” No name, no city, just Emergency.

02:01 – There are two important male doctors, and a man we’re told is crazy who’s screaming, “Make them listen to me before it’s too late!” Getting a doctor to listen to you? Good luck, buddy.

02:26 – Crazy is also a doctor and insists he’s not insane.

02:49 – The crazy doctor came back from a medical convention a couple of weeks ago, so now we know he’s important, too, and legit.

02:53 – Okay, so now we’ve fully flashed back. Fun!

03:44 – Someone named Sally picked this man up from the train station after his important medical convention. Sally says people have been waiting in his office to see him for two weeks but won’t tell her what’s wrong: “You know, usually people can’t talk enough about what’s ailing them.” So true, Sally!

03:55 – She’s naming people who won’t talk, including “that fat traffic cop Sam Jenzek.” It’s nice to see some male bodyshaming in entertainment for once, tbh.

04:09 – Becky Driscoll is back from England!!!!

05:04 – OK, the Grimaldi fruit stand has CLOSED, which is very very weird; the Grimaldi mother has been trying to see this doctor, which is also odd; and the Grimaldi boy doesn’t wanna go to school…which seems normal but we’re told is not.

05:41 – Sally is Nurse.

05:51 – Becky Driscoll is HERE (at the doctor’s office) and she’s hot! They haven’t seen each other in five years. Also, we now know the doctor’s name is Miles.

06:31 – Becky isn’t here for herself, she’s here for her cousin Wilma, who “has a delusion.” She doesn’t believe her Uncle Ira is her Uncle Ira. Curious.

07:17 Becky came back from England two months ago. Still have no idea what state we’re in right now though.

07:34 – Miles says, “I guess that makes us lodge brothers now” ???? I have no idea what’s going on or who anyone is to anyone, but I can confirm this small town is creepy.

08:03 – OPE! Miles and Becky ran into a cop they knew in college. They’re laughing that he quit his second year to marry his wife—which is what Miles wanted to do with Becky!!!!!!!!!!! And Becky didn’t take him seriously. Sounds smart.

08:10 – Miles says he’s learned “the wife of a doctor allegedly needs the understanding of an Einstein and the patience of a saint” and followed up with “love is handled by the specialists.” Becky, not marrying Miles was the best decision you ever made.

09:18 Jimmy Grimaldi runs into the doctor’s office in hysterics. He doesn’t think his mother is his mom: “Don’t let her get me.” Very similar situation to Uncle Ira! Hm!

11:27 – Miles checks in on Uncle Ira, who Wilma says is exactly as he always is except for that “special look in his eyes.” Uhhhh…..

11:45 – Wilma continues that with Uncle Ira there’s “no emotion just the pretense of it.” Sounds like 90% of midtown Manhattan to me! Ba dum tsh.

12:19 – Miles is gaslighting the hell out of Becky’s cousin.

13:06 – Miles says to Becky of Wilma, “You don’t have to be losing your mind to seek psychiatric help!” This movie is weirdly progressive for 1956.

15:05 – Miles is quoting Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” No wonder Becky wouldn’t marry him.

15:39 – We’re meeting Dr. Kaufmann, the “witch doctor.” He knows all about the weird shit happening and says that everyone’s suffering a “strange neurosis” and that it’s an “epidemic of mass hysteria.”

16:05 – Miles asked what’s causing it: “Worry about what’s going on in the world probably.” Relatable.

16:41 – Becky and Miles kissed and he said “MMMMM.” I want to die. This line is going to haunt me more than any horror movie ever.

19:40 – Miles’ friend Jack called Miles and Becky over to his house, and now he’s asking Miles if he can “forget you’re a doctor,” to which Miles says, “Quit acting like a writer.” Sick burn.

19:55 – There’s a body bag on the pool table. Nice!

20:47 – A cuckoo clock just went off and startled everyone in the room! Including me!

20:47 – The body bag has a man in it, and Miles just keeps poking his face. Very normal reaction to seeing a dead body at your friend’s house.

20:59 – We, the audience, can’t see the guy’s face, but we’re told it’s “vague” and has “all the features” but “no details.” Curiouser and curiouser.

21:39 – The corpse has no fingerprints, but the craziest thing is this guy, Jack, had an ink pad in his home at the ready to test.

22:00 – Miles, Becky, Jack, and Jack’s…wife? all essentially went, “Welp, that’s crazy,” and now Jack has asked who wants a drink from the bar that’s right next to the pool table with the corpse on it. No one covered the vague face back up with the body bag.

23:o0 – Becky said, “Should you call the police?” But it took an entire minute—of everyone drinking and going huh, how odd—before anyone suggested that. Becky definitely graduated from college.

23:29 – We’ve determined the dead body is maybe a dead ringer for Jack… there’s a “structural likeness.” Everyone’s still just chilling next to the fingerprint-less corpse though, acting like this…happens more often than you’d think.

23:33 – Miles calls the situation “fantastic.”

23:37 – Now, Miles asks Jack if he’d mind “sitting up with your strange friend” for the whole night. The way I would mind SO fucking much?!?!?!

23:58 – Becky and Miles are leaving and Becky assures Jack’s…wife???, who we now know is Teddy, that “nothing’s going to happen” despite the fact that they found a fingerprint-less corpse in the house and they’re going to pull an all-nighter with it.

Jack, Teddy, Miles, and Becky check out Jack’s twin corpse. Photo:Getty Images

26:01 – The corpse has opened its fucking eyes. Teddy is understandably having a damn heart attack.

26:40 – Miles is calling in the witch doctor!

27:38 – He hangs up and runs back to Becky’s house after dropping her off (they didn’t kiss so it was lame), because he suspects she’s now in danger. (Let’s remember he was not worried for Becky’s safety when she suggested calling the cops about the fingerprint-less corpse…a suggestion he ignored.)

29:28 – He’s in Becky’s basement?? And he pulled a loose match? Out of his bathrobe? And successfully lit it by striking it against a wall?? Did fire use to work differently?

30:00 – We’re 30 minutes in, which is enough time to report that, sadly, Miles does not do it for me 🙁

30:03 – He pulled a second loose match from his pocket. Did people in the ‘50s carry matches everywhere????

30:16 – A Becky corpse! Yikes!

32:07 – Noting that we now have two corpses who resemble our friends, and instead of them calling literally anyone else, we have a writer, a general practitioner, and a witch doctor on the case!

32:15 – Jack’s corpse is gone

32:37 – Have now learned that you can “kill a man by shoving an ice pick into the base of his brain and leaving a puncture so small the naked eye can’t see it.” Don’t know that I’ll ever need this information but feels nice to know.

33:06 – Jack, the “writer,” said, “Lets face it, we have a mystery on our hands!” Yeah! That’s exactly what I’d call a corpse that looks just like me! This premise is definitely terrifying, but they’ve done an impressive job making it so unscary.

33:17 – Kauffman, the witch doctor, explained this all away and advised that no one think any more of it lmao.

33:34 – He added that “the mind is a strange and wonderful thing, I’m not sure it’ll ever be able to figure itself out.” Deep.

34:11 – Becky’s corpse is gone! Or sorry, we’re calling it her “double.”

35:00 – Kauffman gaslighting the shit out of Miles.

35:48 – A cop showed up at Becky’s house because Kaufmann, Jack, and Miles were in the basement talking like it was the middle of the day and Becky’s dad called the cops. The cop asked Jack why he waited so long to report his corpse twin. It’s a great question, in my opinion.

36:15 – The cop said don’t worry about the fingerprint-less corpse because it’s in the morgue after showing up in a burning haystack? Makes perfect sense.

37:48 – It’s the next morning 🙂 Becky and Miles are acting like everything’s good and normal <333 37:50 – Miles warns Becky not to get mixed up with a doctor (annoying), and Becky says what if I told you I was already mixed up with a doctor (hot).

39:28 – Wilma is officially no longer concerned about Uncle Ira. Phew. But also hmmmmmmmm

39:47 – Jimmy Grimaldi and his mother are in Miles’ waiting room and Jimmy is so happy to be with his mom! This is very different than yesterday! Can you believe it was just yesterday that Jimmy was screaming about his mother?!

40:10 – Miles is wondering to himself why Jimmy and Wilma now seem fine when he surely did nothing to cure them. Incredible.

40:42 – There’s a giant, disgusting, oozing plant sdvklnrwkvnkalvd

41:04 – It looks like a massive Venus fly trap and it’s like, foaming and birthing something???? Fucking gross.

Becky, Jack, Teddy, and Miles discover the seedpods. No idea why it looks like Teddy is smiling. She shouldn’t be. Photo:Getty Images

41:42 – It’s now slowly growing and POPPING out a human form—like it’s one of those tiny little pill things for kids that you drop into water and they grow into like, a dinosaur or something. I genuinely want to throw up.

41:57 – This plant also burps.

42:47 – Jack warns everyone to not call the police! (The progressiveness…amazing?) It’s because he suspects they’ve already been seedpodded because of the burning haystack comment.

43:09 – Miles is calling the FBI instead!!!!!

43:13 – Miles is mansplaining to Becky what any of this could be: “So much has been discovered these past few years, anything is possible. May be the result of atomic radiation on plant life or animal life, some weird alien organism, a mutation of some kind…” All answers I’m sure Becky could have arrived at herself.

43:55 – The FBI is not answering. But the phone operators are. This is Not Good, probably.

44:13 – Ughm a new corpse is being revealed from the seedpods, bleeckkkk.

45:17 – Miles couldn’t get through to the governor because the Sacramento circuits are busy and all the LA circuits are dead. But we don’t know yet if the operator has been seedpodded, or if all of California, where apparently we are, has! I’m stressed. And I trust no one.

45:54 – Teddy begs Jack to take her out of here while Becky insists on staying behind with Miles. Honestly, Becky and Teddy should just leave together, the writer and doctor definitely have this all under control.

46:35 – Lol, Miles tried to stab Becky’s double to get rid of it but couldn’t since it looks exactly like her and that was Hard…which I’m assuming will come back to bite him in the ass. He did successfully stab his own double though, which looked like a CPR mannequin and the pitchfork looked like it was poking styrofoam. Never been more grateful for CGI.

47:03 – Also, need to mention I have no idea whose house we’re at, but they inexplicably have a giant-ass greenhouse in their backyard, and that’s where these specific seedpods are marinating and birthing their CPR mannequins.

47:51 – Becky and Miles left the greenhouse house and stopped at a gas station to use a pay phone since “maybe they haven’t taken over the pay phones yet??” Never a good idea to stop at a gas station in a horror movie, that definitely hasn’t changed.

48:42 – The gas station guy put two seedpods in the trunk of Miles car! Becky had no idea what was happening. Women

49:18 – They’re going to Sally’s house since, even though the rest of the town of Santa Mira (and maybe state?????) has seemingly been taken over by seedpods, Sally is HIS nurse, so she’s probably fine.

50:12 – Sally is def not fine. And actually, she’s about to seedpod her baby. Cute!

50:35 – The creepy cop from before sneaks up on Miles and says, “Come on in Miles, we’ve been waiting for you.” Invasion of the Body Snatchers is ACAB.

51:08 – Miles and Becky drove off quickly and all the doubles are trying to chase them. They’re Wanted because they know the Truth. Makes you think!

52:21 – Dare I say Becky is driving the…Getaway Car 😉

53:04 – Also need to note that Becky is in a full skirt and button-up cardigan. Not a hint of a tan leg or a wayward bra strap in sight. Final girls of the 1990s and on could never.

54:04 – They’re hiding out in Miles’ office and are popping pills to stay awake, since the second they fall asleep, they’ll be podded. FUN.

54:06 – Movie kiss!!

55:22 – It’s finally the next morning. Miles looks out the window and everyone’s walking around all hunky dory because they’ve all been podded. Eek.

56:34 – Then everyone starts walking like zombies straight into the town square…my brain can’t help but start humming “Thriller.”

57:10 – All the farmers (cough cough the Grimaldis) have brought seedpod-filled-trucks into the square. Now cops are directing the families to the truck in which they’ll receive their pod.

57:28 – Everyone’s just like, Fuck yeah, throw me a pod.

58:00 – I haven’t described the pods yet—they look like a rich high school’s drama department’s papier-mâché project.

58:30 – Jack and Kauffman have finally arrived at Miles’ office (which he was hoping for). But they’ve been podded! Or….Kauffman’s behind this whole thing?!

58:47 – Jack is definitely fully podded but, honestly, his general demeanor is not that much different than before.

59:12 – Kauffman explains why the Pods are Good. Because people are Sad and the pods replace all Human Emotions. The pods were also apparently just drifting in space for years and then they fell onto a farmer’s land and this is literally the only information we get about the origin and arrival of the seedpods. Some giant grapeleaf balls that fell from the sky one day. Cool.

59:38 – Miles listens to Kauffman’s long monologue and responds, “So that’s how it began. Out of the sky.” Go girl, give us nothing.

1:00:20 – Kauffman reiterates how good this is because the pods let humans live in “an untroubled world”—and I’m immediately reminded of the scene in Don’t Look Up where Jennifer Lawrence’s parents are like, “We support the meteor because of the jobs it’ll create!” The people support the pods because consciousness can be so finicky.

1:00:27 – Miles says he LOVES !!!! Becky and asks if he’ll feel the same tomorrow! Kauffman says, bitch aren’t you listening? No, we don’t need love anymore.

1:00:30 – Kauffman realizes he has to explain more slowly about why this is so Good: Love never lasts and “life is so simple” without shit like desire, ambition, or faith. I did not know the people of Santa Mira were down so bad. Damn.

1:01:06 – I mean, Kauffman’s got some kind of point but also, isn’t that everything that makes life worth living?!

1:01:28 – Becky has jumped in to say: “I want to love and be loved. I don’t want a world without love or grief or beauty, I’d rather die.” Fuck, me too. I did not expect to be so moved by this black-and-white sci-fi film about space seeds.

1:01:57 – Miles is playing with his doctor tools and seemingly coming up with a Plan.

1:04:10 – Miles hands Becky a syringe, with no instruction, then stabs both Jack and Kauffman with some kind of tranquilizer shot. Smart!

1:04:20 – Becky gets the cop guarding the door with her tranquilizer syringe. Again, college grad here.

1:05:55 – They escaped through the front door by looking like they’d been seedpodded and even successfully fooled another cop. But then a fucking dog almost got run over in the middle of the street and Becky screamed, “WATCH OUT!” Now the cop is super suspicious. Women and their emotions always ruin everything, huh? Maybe some women should be podded lol.

That’s the pod. Photo:Getty Images

1:06:53 – The town’s main siren has officially been turned on because the cop Figured It Out. (Nickelodeon)

1:07:07 – Becky and Miles are running up a giant fucking set of stairs. From where? I don’t know. To where? No idea. Becky is hella tired and so am I from watching her summit this random hill.

1:07:34 – All the townspeople are running towards them and it honestly looks like one of the final scenes from Don’t Worry Darling.

1:07:44 – Not even kidding….this feels nearly frame-for-frame similar to that final scene.

1:08:50 – What’s that thing about only 36 plots existing in all of literature?????

1:09:17 – Becky collapsed from exhaustion…probably the exhaustion of running in kitten heels. So Miles is carrying her into a cave. For a small town in California, they’ve got a very diverse geography.

1:10:25 – They’ve burrowed themselves beneath some rickety boards inside the cave, essentially burying themselves alive. The townspeople are running in. Fingers crossed they’re all braindead enough to not think to look under this pile of loose wood.

1:10:33 – Oh my fucking god Becky dropped her stupid sweater at the front of the cave and the cop screamed, “They must be in the tunnel.” Guess it’s not a cave, my bad. Becky, myself, and all women always ruin everything.

1:11:13 – Alright cool, everyone was too stupid to think about checking the obvious giant hole the loose ply boards are covering.

1:11:38 – The townspeople give up and leave. Becky says, “I can’t stay awake much longer.” I forgot they’ve been up for like 48 fucking hours.

1:12:27 – Someone’s singing?

1:12:37 – Becky thinks this is a sign that they’re not alone, that they’re not “the only ones left to know what love is.” I’ve had enough out of you, ma’am.

1:13:45 – Miles heads for the highway alone now, I guess—and then discovers the singing is just music from a car radio. But a seedpodded farmer angrily shuts it off, and Miles notices that this is an entire industrial farm harvesting seedpods. Never underestimate the horror of capitalism!

1:14:49 – Aw, Miles ran back to the tunnel to grab Becky since he probably knew she’d head towards the music eventually and get podded like an idiot.

1:15:13 – They’re having like a very hot kiss in the muddy water…but now Becky has fallen asleep. Thankfully, Miles stopped kissing her! Was this movie made in 1956 or 2026?! Hard to tell sometimes.

1:15:37 – Seven seconds of sleep and Becky wakes up fully podded! Damn! Devastating!

1:15:48 – Now she’s screaming, “He’s in here! Get him!” Fucking Becky.

1:17:00 – Miles made it to the highway.

1:17:13 – All the podded people are just staring at him running through traffic screaming, “We’re in danger!”

1:17:49 – One of the trucks on the highway is filled with seedpods! Oh no!

1:18:08 – Wow, Miles broke the fourth wall to scream, “They’re here already! You’re next!” into the camera.

1:18:17 – We’ve returned to the present moment at the hospital. The important doctors do not believe Miles’ story. But then, someone gets brought in who was hit by a truck and another doctor says the truck had the most peculiar things, like “great giant seedpods.”

1:19:40 – The truck was coming from Santa Mira! The doctor calls the FBI. That’s it. The End.

We never learn if the entire state or the entire country/world/universe has been podded. And we definitely don’t get to see if Miles ever falls asleep. But I hope he did <3 Invasion of the Body Snatchers is for sure a strong and entertaining political allegory that resonates with a lot of shit from the last six-ish years. (So it pretty impressively holds up!) I imagine a 2023 remake would center social media and, rather than paranoia brewing from neighbors acting a little off, the paranoia would brew on QAnon, which would eventually infiltrate suburban households. (Sooooo a documentary lol.)

All said, this horror classic was enjoyable! And like I kept mentioning, unexpectedly kind of progressive?!?! The piss was definitely not scared out of me and I was for sure not genuinely frightened, which makes it the perfect spooky season film for me since I got a good night’s sleep after.

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