★★★★ out of ★★★★★
A mildly raunchy, splattertastic, alien invasion creature feature with a Mean Girls twist crossed with a teen pregnancy after school special? Yes, please!
Directed by Stephen Cedars and Benji Kleiman
Landing squarely in the thank-goodness-we-can-finally-watch-it category, Snatchers (2019) is one of those movies that hit the festival circuit and then took its own sweet time getting to our screens at home. With its streaming release in January 2020 and its DVD/BluRay release in February, there’s no longer any reason for you not to be watching it right this second!
Originally a 6 minute short film in 2015, Snatchers became an app-based mini-series on Verizon’s flash in the pan go90 service. The team behind the film always wanted it to be a feature-length bundle of joy, though, so they stitched the series footage together with a few bits of new material and voilà! Their new creation was named one of Variety‘s “11 Best Movies of the 2019 SXSW Film Festival”.
The movie follows popular high school teen, Sara Steinberg [Mary Nepi; Not Cool (2014)], who — in accordance with the requirements set forth by the International Council of Teen Movie Tropes — has long since ditched her kinda-nerdy childhood friend in order to hang with the popular girls. Sara has also decided to give in to her recently-ex-boyfriend’s demands for sex. Her plan: get back together with her ex, hunky lacrosse guy Skylar Cole [Austin Fryberger; Netflix’s Huge in France (2019-)], in order to maintain her lofty perch in the high school pecking order.
Unfortunately for Sara, her unprotected rendez-vous results in the world’s fastest — not to mention completely alien — pregnancy. After turning to her long-shunned childhood bestie, Hayley Chamberlain [Gabrielle Elyse; TV’s The Thundermans (2014-2016)], the two young women work together in hopes of keeping the whole thing a secret from Sara’s mom. Oh, and also saving the world from Sara’s otherworldly offspring. Whatever.
Weighing in at around 90 minutes, Snatchers is a lean, mean, horror/comedy machine. Having been previously released to film festivals (in 2017) as a series, the Snatchers creators had the benefit of already knowing the audience’s reactions to a lot of the scenes when they came back to rework the project as a full-length feature. Not to mention its previous incarnation was essentially a web-series where each episode was about 10 minutes long. All of the above gave them a chance to really fine tune the pacing of the film.
Special effects are a mixture of some truly splatterful practical effects and a few well-done CG embellishments. The filmmakers didn’t skimp on the Karo syrup, that’s for sure. The chaos of the free clinic scene and the utter pandemonium of the police station massacre will be forever etched into my visual cortex.
The two leads — Mary Nepi as “Sara” and Gabrielle Elyse as “Hayley” — do phenomenal jobs embracing the crazy. Whether they’re leaping through windows or crawling across the set while office supplies and stuntmen fly over their heads, both actors never fail to deliver. Snatchers is obviously more popcorn thrill ride than dramatic feature, but Nepi and Elyse seem just as comfortable with the few dramatic moments in the film as they are handling severed limbs.
I should also mention the supporting roles of Sara’s mom, Kate Steinberg [J.J. Nolan; TV’s Silicon Valley (2015)], and alpaca rancher/family friend, Dave [Rich Fulcher; Netflix’s Disenchantment (2018-)]. While their characters are less developed than the leads their comedic timing is outstanding and the movie wouldn’t be the same without them.
Overall, if you like Mean Girls-type humor and love action-filled creature features that use practical effects for their critters (creepy puppets for the win!), Snatchers is most definitely a Must Watch.
Snatchers is available for streaming on iTunes, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and all the other usual suspects.
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Review by Robert Zilbauer.