By Fred Topel
As part of Sundance’s growing inclusion of television, the Midnight Episodics series showcased the first season of the digital series Snatchers. This horror-comedy is a total hoot and has fun with absurd gore and body horror.
Right away Snatchers looks more cinematic than some feature films, and certainly a lot of television, let alone digital short series. Framed in 2.35:1 widescreen, Snatchers has style and composition whether it’s two people talking or chaotic bloodshed.
Sara (Mary Nepi) has sex with her boyfriend Skyler (Austin Fryberger), and ends up pregnant the next day, and gives birth to a monster the next. The creature has a body snatchers/puppet masters quality where it can attach to humans and control them. Meanwhile, Sara is still pregnant and trying not to birth another snatcher.
Snatchers is clearly inspired by Sam Raimi. If the angles and zooming didn’t make it clear, a character actually says “groovy.” The gore scenes would make Ash proud. The birth scene explodes with Evil Dead-worthy splatter, and a climactic siege is gleefully full of indiscriminate gunplay.
It’s also a horny teen comedy. The young cast nails the tone of big broad farce. Skyler is a dumb buff dude bro. Sara is a lovely high school girl who wanted to lose her virginity and now fears her mom (J.J. Nolan) finding out she got pregnant (as if the whole 48 hour incubation period wouldn’t give her some leeway), not to mention the whole monsters ripping heads off. Her friends Hayley (Gabrielle Elyse) and Kiana (Ashly Argota) are adorable dealing with this absurd premise as if it’s standard teen crisis.
There’s a bit of an Edgar Wright tone as well with quick cut montages that speed through practical matters like the ultrasound. The fast dialogue makes mater of fact lines hilarious. Like the cop telling Sara “I don’t believe you” is perfect deadpan, as if he should even consider believing this story. The teens have some clever twists on Twitterspeak, like saying “WTF*ck” thereby using the expletive the abbreviation was intended to hide. Sara also uses Juno as a verb.
Within all this craziness, the characters are actually sympathetic. You root for Sara. You don’t want her to get hurt or be responsible for hurting others, and she deserves to get to have a first time without all this drama. This crisis also reunites friendships Sara had neglected due to high school peer pressures and that’s sweet.
The creature is practical when it’s attached to people, so it’s always nice to see a physical effect. It’s probably digital when it detaches and springs around the room but there’s enough of a mix that it totally works.
There’s clearly more to Snatchers. The origin of the creature has not entirely been confirmed by the end, and there’s a big teaser. I already want to see more Snatchers and these first eight play well as a standalone movie. But before there’s a season two, everyone will have to watch Snatchers on Stage 13.