Body Snatchers (1993)
I've only ever seen bits of this version, and I don't really recall much chatter about the film overall. There was an article a couple years back on Bloody Disgusting claiming it to be a lost gem of the 90's. That is.....a very kind article. Perhaps the quality of the '78 version loomed over this for me, but then I unintentionally saw two more 'things taking control of bodies' horror films right after this to add some more perspective. And yeah no, this is just a joyless slog.
For one thing, I think it would be nice if the actors who weren't Body Snatchers actually emoted just a little bit. Instead there's not much a difference between them and the Snatchers so you're left feeling like there was only a marginal change in the status quo. This feeling culminated for me in the 'romance' scene where our two main characters have what I would call an anti-spark between them, where it feels like they just kept slapping two dead fish against each other in the hopes of creating some compelling noises.
The plot is pretty base line with no real surprises. Some critics and reviewers were hyping up the symbolism of the military complex aspect and conforming and individuality, but that truly feels like lazy shorthand for easy bake dread. Maybe this is just because we're almost three decades removed now but it feels like a graceless and uninventive attempt at social commentary that bludgeons you over the head within minutes of starting the film. It felt impatient with itself and it wanted you to know what it was doing so it didn't have to waste time with any enjoyable pacing.
There are some ok visuals, but the cinematography felt just as flat as the acting and the script to me. Mostly it's the practical effects that are worth a look, but even then they aren't nearly as memorable as the '78 version which manages to scar your memory with just one human faced dog.
Forest Whitaker gives the one compelling performance of the film with some actual emotion, but even then he's barely in it so you don't have much of an investment in his character. R. Lee Ermy and Meg Tilly who hand in some decent scenes, but all of it just feels like it's in service of something that wants to be important but can't figure out how to get there. Plus we have one of the worst endings when it just sort of turns into a sequence from 'Team America', which granted is amusing but not for the right reason.
There aren't that many great reasons to watch this, but if you're watching through the various Body Snatcher films then.....sure? You could do worse? At the very least it will definitely make you appreciate the '78 one.
Parasite Eve (1997)
So yeah, it's been over 20 years since I've seen this and I think I had some nostalgia filters working overtime as I had fond memories. Granted, those were more from the video game which was very different. Although funnily enough the writer of the novel that these were based on sounded more impressed with the game than the film(even though the film follows the core story of the novel). But hey, maybe he just liked that sweet game soundtrack as much as I did.
Anywho, the film follows a scientists who studies mitochondria (yes, the powerhouse of the cell) and has theories about their origins and how they can be harnessed for blah blah blah. His wife gets in a car accident, is pronounced brain dead, and he finds out she signed up to be an organ donor. He tells the doctor who wants her kidney that he'll give the ok for the surgery if he can get her liver (because that's how that works). He cultures her liver, while a young girl gets her kidneys, and whoopsydoodle, it turns out that mitochondria are sentient and really hate being tied down to us humans. A new creature named Eve is born from his dead wife's cultured liver samples, and that creature wants to use the young girl as a host to birth a new perfect creature. As ya do. Also, the new creature can sometime posses people and make humans spontaneously combust, so that's fun.
This is a very flawed film for a host of reasons, but it's still interesting. One of the issues of the film is that some of the producers wanted this to be a romance story more than a horror film, so the director got bogged down with obligations. It's also a very slow burn, so you have to be in the mood to sit through a number of interweaving plots that are all fairly ridiculous. That being said, the acting is actually pretty decent, and the performances make this more of an interesting focus on grief and surviving loss than horror. And then the special effects hit and it's like.....oof.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the project is the Joe Hisaishi score. Yes, that Joe Hisaishi. I'm not going to say it's his most memorable work, but it stands out and it does elevate the film quite a bit.
It has its flaws, but again, it's interesting and they did the best with what they had. It's an overlooked part of the late 90's wave of Japanese horror films like the Ring, and I think it's worth a viewing if you're hitting up stuff from that era. Hell, it was kind of worth it for me just to see the old ADV intro from that era.
There are no quality trailers for the film online, sorry!
I always enjoyed this movie, but after watching the last two films it felt like I was watching a Criterion masterpiece at this point and came out of it with an even deeper appreciation for James Gunn. This just hits so many things that I like, being a squishy blend of sci-fi, horror, and comedy that's finely paced with real characters who bring you into the story. Every performance is solid, the special effects are great, and the plot is well structured and gives you plenty of payoffs with some fun turns here and there.
I think the film flopped and is somewhat obscure now, especially as the first five people I asked about it never saw or heard of it at all. This is exceedingly odd to me, but I guess I'll give it a quick summary since it's not as well known as I thought. Basically, an alien parasite lands in a small town and infects Michael Rooker (who is essentially the main character even though Nathan Fillion gets top billing). He starts to mutate and in turn infects a woman with a host of larvae that will eventually possess people and turn them into zombies. Stuff gets really disgusting and slimey from there, and we follow a bunch of small town idiots as they try to survive. It's great.
It's definitely paying tribute to a host of sci-fi and horror influences, and one bit of particular note is a bath scene that is a pretty direct pull from the '93 Body Snatchers. The difference being is that this teen girl is a billion times more self-efficient than the lead of Body Snatchers and actively saves Nathan Fillion's ass.
Where Slither really excels is in the subtle character work. Rooker's character isn't a great person, but he's a person who despite being turned into a terrible monster still loves his wife. He actually was faithful to her when you weren't expecting him to be. And there's just little bits and pieces here and there for every character that cements them as a real person who you feel bad for when things get ugly. The teen survivor just has one family scene before things go bad, but you get a real sense of loss and horror behind the dark comedic tone of the trauma.
Black comedy horror is sort of my jam, and I came off of watching some bad films right before this one so I may have just been desperate for any quality. But if you've never seen Slither and you're looking for a good bloody monster feature for Halloween then I highly recommend giving it a shot.