I’m working on the eleventh draft of my own take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, one of my all-time favorite stories. I love the original novel from 1955—The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney—and the 1956, 1978, and 1993 film adaptations (see my review of all of them here), so of course my attention was drawn to the new movie Assimilate [defunct link] that launched on VOD and Digital HD and in select theaters on Friday, May 24, 2019. The movie trailer indicating body snatching and cloning by way of bugs instead of alien vegetation wasn’t all that promising, to be honest, but the movie itself turns out to be a pleasant surprise!
After two high school buddies start a web series about their small town, they capture on film the aftermath of what appears to be an animal attack on a neighbor. After the authorities refuse to believe them and other townspeople begin acting strangely, it soon becomes clear to the friends that their town is under invasion, the citizens being replaced by emotionless clones. The two friends joined by a third attempt to save their family members and upload their video evidence for all the world to see, and hopefully send help.
Assimilate isn’t the cheap and nauseating found-footage film the trailer led me to believe it would be, but instead an effective low-budget thriller that relies too much on jump scares but tempers these with earned emotions and suspense. It’s well-told, with inspired cinematic moments and really great acting by the young leads. The kids mostly behave smartly, except when they inexplicably leave a certain character behind over and over again—“He’ll be fine!”—and unlike the characters in most teen horror flicks, I didn’t want them all to die horribly. Their race against time to warn the world and get out of town builds to an action-packed final act, fun doppelgänger moments, and a twist I didn’t see coming. It’s always nice when an adaptation finds something new to do with the original material.
This film certainly feels like a smaller story than the novel or the first three film adaptations, but it’s worlds better than the horrible 2007 studio adaptation, The Invasion. I’m still waiting for the definitive 21st Century retelling of the familiar body snatchers story, but until then, we could do much worse than Assimilate. A solid 3 out of 5 stars.