1950s | Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Film 3 of 8, representing the 1950s, Sci-Fi, and Alien Invasion
Expectations: It’s hard to watch a 50s Sci-Fi film without thinking of the red scare propaganda of the 1950s (Joseph McCathy’s witch hunt of films and filmmakers), some certainly tapped into this hysteria, while for others this is more of an association by hindsight. Aside from this I’ll be looking at how horror had moved into the realms of science fiction, leaving old world horrors behind in search of the horror’s of tomorrow. This is when horror became not of man or beast, but something a altogether more alien.
Reflection: The red scare message here is hardly a deft subext, it’s pretty out and proud, and therein this certainly is very much a product of its time. But looking around that for a moment, the film is indicative of horror really coming home in American cinema. The alien invasion here comes right into suburban America, corrupting the very core of the American society. This was a horror that had infiltrated families, the law, and the military, and I think science fiction was a vehicle that enabled horror to that. This is also horror really looking forward rather than back to traditional horror, with writers and filmmakers engaging with new ways of frightening people; here utlising the burgeoning appetite the public had for space. There’s also, all be it very brief, glimpses of actual body horror, with Kevin McCarthy taking a pitch fork and stabbing his alien clone in the chest. A very real act of violence presented to the audience with prosthetics, rather than the suggested or off screen violence of previous decades. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and other films of this period, show horror’s remarkable ability to change and transform with time. Unlike the horror films of the 20s, 30s, and 40s, the 1950s can be said to show the first examples of the beginnings of the modern horror film.