Newly popular Sara (Mary Nepi) only needs one thing to cement her high-school status: her ex-boyfriend Skyler (Austin Fryberger) back on her arm. Skyler returns to school well bronzed after a family trip to Mexico, and Sara decides that if having sex is what will get them back together, she’s going to do it even though she isn’t quite ready. Being the jock douchebag that he is, the sex does not go according to Sara’s plan and ends up being unprotected. Two days later, Sara looks nine months pregnant. And the fetus she’s carrying isn’t human. Directed by Stephen Cedars and Benji Kleiman (who also wrote the film along with Scott Yacyshyn) Snatchers chases Sara and the unpopular best friend she ditched Hayley (Gabrielle Elyse) as she tries to figure out what the hell is going on and how to stop it.
With impeccable comedic timing in both the excellent writing and physically comedic performances, Snatchers becomes a kind of Juno meets Mean Girls married to Alien and The Faculty. And it works perfectly. Horror comedy is one of the hardest of the sub-genres to pull off, and most installments tend toward the lowbrow, punching down kind of humor that relies on exploiting marginalized identities and communities for cheap laughs. But not Snatchers. The dialogue is snappy, socially conscious, and utilizes situational comedy to a sensational effect. Because the gore in Snatchers is perfectly balanced to the comedy, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much with a horror movie before. This is a credit to the fantastic acting as well as the taut writing. Even moments of pure silence are hilarious in Snatchers. The creators have really done something special with this one.
As it turns out, Skyler is not just an insensitive prick (pun way intended). He returned to Madre Vista, Arizona after contracting an alien sex parasite that has no symptoms other than extreme horniness in the male — but has devastating effects on the female after copulation. Sara is carrying not just one, but two alien fetuses, and their goal is the annihilation of the human race.
The social commentary here is not lost on anyone when the local vet Dave (Rich Fulcher) exclaims, “Maybe loverboy came back with an illegal alien?” a sly nod to the absurdity that is the current American political regime’s racist obsession with immigrants at the southern border. The alien invasion in Snatchers, though, is not initiated by Mexicans in the least and certainly not as an act of aggression against the USA. It is actually Skyler, acting like a disrespectful, ugly American colonizer in a Mexican museum that leads to his infection as well as the aliens crossing over into the States when he returns. Being the whitest of white dudes, Skyler does not raise any concerns after he’s dosed with the parasite even though his behavior does become more erratic. He’s allowed to go about his business of toxic masculinity and desperate demands for sexual gratification without anyone even suspecting something might be wrong. Boys will be boys, right?
Like the discussions that emerged after Black Panther critiqued the colonizer dynamic of museum collections, Snatchers also highlights the problematic nature of having sacred religious objects out on such open display as they are in the museum where Skyler infects himself. This is a reminder that tourism can be dangerous and deadly, especially when a guest disrespects their temporary host country. It is important to visit other places and see how other people live, this is how humans have grown and developed as a global species. But it is also important to take the role of guest in a foreign land seriously. This is an evergreen message in particular for Americans. Skyler’s behavior is so common abroad it’s a worldwide cliche by now.
Aside from these apt social commentaries, Snatchers is filled with dozens of horror homage to classics such as Gremlins, The Fly, Relic, Fargo, Rabid and David Cronenberg’s entire opus of body horror, Lynchian-style camera work and mise-en-scene, and more. The special effects are solid and based on a Cronenbergian aesthetic that works so well in this context. Snatchers also elevates the horror comedy to a new and feminist height. “You’re reproducing some serious patriarchal bullshit!” Hayley shouts as Sara puts off telling the dude who got her pregnant that he, well, got her pregnant. I have to admit I was surprised that such a solid women power film would come from three male writers, which makes Snatchers even more of a gem in this sub-genre.
Snatchers subverts many of the expectations and tropes that come not just with high school comedies and horror comedies in general. Its focus on female friendships, in particular, was really moving, as well as calling out the social pressure high schoolers are under to maintain popularity at whatever cost — in particular, the girls.
Packed with both chuckles and screams, Snatchers is a rowdy and wacky romp that will appeal to anyone who enjoys laughing. Bonus points if you also love horror. Somehow even the gore was humorous. Snatchers is the kind of film you’ll easily be able to watch multiple times. Something tells me it only gets funnier (and more socio-culturally relevant) with each viewing.
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Sezin Koehler is a multiracial Sri Lankan American, uncertified Scream Queen, and Frida Kahlo devotee who writes about foreign films, horror, social justice, and representation for Black Girl Nerds. You can also find her on Twitter ranting about politics (@SezinKoehler), or Instagramming her newest art creations and tattoos (@zuzukoehler).