Friday, March 1, 2024

Incursion of the Torso Grabbers

Film: The Changed
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

I get the desire to play with the ideas of an established story. You can connect to your audience by giving them something they already have a connection to. You have to do a lot less work because you are already playing with not merely established tropes but with established plot points and concepts. And, importantly, you can feel like you’ve added something meaningful to an established piece of fiction. Look at The Lion King picking the corpse of Hamlet, for instance. This brings us to The Changed, a movie that desperately wants to play with the ideas of Invasion of the Body Snatchers without saying it’s doing so in so many words.

I’ve seen multiple movie versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and I’ve read the book a couple of times. I recommend the book; it’s fantastic, and the audiobook is a great version of it, too. There’s a sequence in the book as well as the original film where the pod people confront the doctor and his girlfriend and more or less explain what has happened and the reality of the invasion. It’s a great scene because it shows the insidiousness of what is happening and the new reality of those who have been converted. Now, imagine that scene blown up to the length of a feature film. That, friends and neighbors, is The Changed.

To be fair, it’s not a bad a bad thread to pull from the original story. The psychology of the invaders is fascinating and it gives the whole story a sense of purpose. What’s happening is not merely something random, but something that was a part of something else’s plan. This isn’t merely nature attacking humanity, but a directed attack that simply happened to us. Understanding that there’s something in the attackers’ plan is what personalizes resisting what is happening.

We’re going to start when the invasion is well under way. Mac (Jason Alan Smith) is talking to his neighbor Bill (Tony Todd) about how it seems that a bunch of people have changed. It’s soon evident that Bill is one of those people who have changed. He’s odd and oddly serene, and seems to want to kiss Mac for some reason. On this same day, we see unusual interactions between Mac’s young neighbor Kim (Clare Foley) and her classmates at school. Additionally, Mac’s wife Jane (Carlee Avers) is attacked by her boss at work, who also tries to kiss her.

Later in the day, Mac is propositioned by a neighbor opening, basically offering herself up for sex if he wants it. He turns her down and discovers that Kim has had as strange of a day as he has had Jane comes home and talks about what happened with her. And then Bill shows up and more or less confesses that he is, well, changed and that he wants to change them as well. Eventually, we’re going to find out that people are change by some sort of interstellar bacteria, which is precisely why they need to kiss people to change them—the infection is passed on that way (and, presumably, through sex). We also get to watch the conversion happen when Kin’s uncle (Doug Tompos) is convinced that everyone is pranking him, a thought he has right up to the end.

There’s a kernel of an idea here, something that really wants to tell a good story, but it’s also something that feels like it never got much past the rough draft stage. It’s a great idea to put this story at this point in the invasion—the day starts just before the tipping point, and ends with broadcasts telling people to give up or they will be forcefully assimilated. That’s a cool place to put the story, because in a lot of ways it’s the most interesting point of the story—the original Body Snatchers showed the start of the invasion while the first remake essentially shows the end. This is in the middle, and the middle is exactly where the best story moments can happen because they lead to the climax of the full scope of the story.

The problem is that it feels really amateurish in a lot of ways. It feels unfinished, or that things are specifically happening because the plot wants us to get to a particular showdown. We have to have a stand-off, but there’s no reason for the stand-off. If the changed people are that powerful and have taken over most of the world…why would they spend this much time asking for compliance when they could take it by force, especially since every new convert not only reduces resistance, but swells their own ranks?

Ultimately, The Changed is a fun idea that doesn’t go anywhere new. The whole point of playing with a known story is to do something different, and The Changed just tells a point of the story that most of us have already filled in in our own heads. What a waste of Tony Todd in a film!

Why to watch The Changed: It plays with one of the most interesting parts of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Why not to watch: It doesn’t live up to its potential.


  1. Another of those throwaway movies on TUBI. Next!

    1. Pretty much. I had hopes with the inclusion of Tony Todd, but not so much.