SXSW 2019: SNATCHERS (2019)

Snatchers.jpg

Studio:      Stage 13
Director:    Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman
Writer:      Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman, Scott Yacyshyn
Producer:  Eric Fisher, Scott Hinckley, Elli Legerski, Paul Young
Stars:     Mary Nepi, Gabrielle Elyse, J.J. Nolan, Austin Fryberger, Nick Gomez

Review Score:

85.jpg

Summary:

A small town erupts in chaos after a status-obsessed teenager becomes inexplicably pregnant with two parasitic alien babies.


Synopsis:     

SXSW Film Festival Review:

What could be worse for a high school student than feeling like sex is the only way to win back an ex-boyfriend, disgusting your classmates with sudden sickness and mood swings, keeping an unplanned pregnancy hidden from mom, and secretly giving birth with only your former best friend for support? Having to do all of that within 48 hours.

Sara already assumed she was living every teenage girl’s worst nightmare at super speed. Then her inexplicable situation becomes even more inexplicable when the baby she births turns out to be the beastly brethren of an “Alien” facehugger. The ghoulish little gremlin is barely three seconds old when it begins bloodily bursting heads and using its stinger to possess people like puppets. Making matters worse, Sara seems to still be pregnant.

If Sara wants to solve the mystery of how monsters hijacked her body before her hometown erupts into complete chaos, she’ll have to patch up a rocky relationship with estranged BFF Hayley. Getting her mother Kate onboard with what’s going on won’t be an easy feat either. Already navigating a hazy maze of popular kid parties and struggling social statuses, the young ladies quickly find themselves contending with cops, creatures, and finding out what the hell happened to Sara’s beau Skyler during his weirdo excursion in Mexico.

Creators Stephen Cedars, Benji Kleiman, and Scott Yacyshyn initially brought “Snatchers” out of its womb as a streaming series of digital shorts. The first season of eight-minute episodes debuted at Sundance in 2017 before being broadcast later that year on Verizon’s Go90 network. I don’t know what that is/was any more than you do. Nevertheless, the show proved popular enough for the mobile service to order two additional seasons.

Go90 however, went bulging belly up in 2018. I’m not certain if those other two seasons ever aired, or if all of them were even completed. It doesn’t matter. Cedars, Kleiman, and company turned lemons into breast milk by recutting the material into a 95-minute feature. That reconfiguration was the right move because “Snatchers” plays so snappily, I can’t imagine it would benefit from being broken up into bits.

By streamlining for essentials only, “Snatchers” keeps momentum firing at a scorching pace. The closest the movie comes to feeling like it has fluff involves a few inconsequential inclusions of Sara’s flighty friend Kiana and her crew. Credits indicate that the series had dozens more students, doctors, and detectives that no longer make the cut. You’ll never know they’re missing though, and you’d never know “Snatchers” once existed in an episodic format, due to the seamlessly sharp editing tying everything together.

Through clever comedy, mischievous music, high-voltage acting, and a terrific tongue-in-cheek tone, “Snatchers” maintains an intensity level that electrifies an immensely entertaining horror-humor hybrid. Whether it’s a file name on a computer or quick glance at an unwashed hand after someone uses a toilet, “Snatchers” packs every inch of available space with gags only to somehow find room to squeeze in even more jokes. Every expression, every reaction, every punctuating quip wrings out each laugh to its very last drop. It’s a constant carousel of relentless comedy that’s sometimes raunchy, usually ridiculous, yet always delivered with smart slickness.

Rich Fulcher, who plays affable farmer friend Dave, is the only cast member I’ve definitely seen before. However, everyone else carries such charismatic screen presence on camera-ready faces, many of them feel familiar even though they’re not. Most of the actors embody archetypes of some sort, but they keep “Snatchers” bouncing high by juicing each personality with incredibly endearing energy.

Truthfully, any casting agent looking to staff a comedy with twentysomethings only needs this film’s roster to find Hollywood’s next rising talents. Considerable credit goes to both directors for setting everyone to the exact same speed where they can hit equal notes of emotion, fun, and manic panic without anyone dropping out of tune to any given scene.

It’s been a long time since I’ve genuinely been bummed by a character’s death in a horror movie, but “Snatchers” has more than one moment where I grimaced with an, “aww!” That’s how enjoyable everyone is. More than that, constantly putting Sara’s circle through the wringer establishes that no one is safe, heightening the stakes of seriousness that pair with sassily sarcastic satire.

Even with all of the Degrassi-like drama, “Snatchers” doesn’t skimp on the blood or the obscenities, which are first and foremost played for laughs. And even with its incessant irreverence, “Snatchers” isn’t irresponsible. Using comedy, the movie lightly touches on cautionary commentary concerning xenophobia, patriarchal society, and the usual coming-of-age pressures accelerated by a violent alien baby obsessed with sex.

Considering its clean digital look and deceptive high school setup, it wouldn’t be wrong to describe the wild romp as a demented Disney Channel production gone devilishly haywire. As long as you can take the touchy topic of teen pregnancy with a tidal wave of whimsical wickedness, “Snatchers” can surely claw vigorously at even the most stubborn horror-comedy itch.

NOTE: There is a post-credits scene.

Review Score: 85