It’s conceivable that, in decades to come, this modest, sci-fi-inflected 1956 horror movie might come to be seen as the defining metaphorical work of the twentieth century.
In the simple conceit of a homespun California town infiltrated by seed-pod aliens who can recreate every aspect of a human being except their emotions, author Jack Finney, screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring and director Don Siegel created a catch-all parable for so many of the social, political and religious currents that swept across the troubled century.
From fascism to communism to capitalist conformity, from religious indoctrination, psychotherapy, the rise of technology and New Age self-discovery to the inevitable loss of compassion that affects every adult, this is the perfect distillation of uncanny existential terror.
What’s perhaps most remarkable, though, is that despite the film’s humble exploitation movie roots, Siegel and his writers are entirely aware of the allegorical depths inherent in their material. The result is a film steeped in psychological realism, its rigorously compact plotting and stark, noir-influenced photography perfectly complementing the mounting sense of clammy, metaphysical dread