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SXSW 2019: “Snatchers” Review

The 2019 feature film “Snatchers” had its world premiere at the Stateside Theatre on Sunday, March 10, as part of the SXSW festival’s Midnighters lineup. Though that film track might be expected to screen mainly horror movies, there’s been a steady stream of great genre films that are a bit harder to classify. “Snatchers” falls into this category, as it dips its toes (or whole feet, really) into horror, sci-fi and comedy.

It previously came to SXSW in 2016 as a short, and got a great crowd reaction, which cemented its creators’ idea that it could make a great feature-length project.

The movie follows high school student Sara (Mary Nepi), who hangs out with the popular girls but recently had a breakup with her boyfriend (Austin Fryberger) because she didn’t want to have sex (he did). She gives into him, but it backfires quickly — really quickly. Sara gets morning sickness, mood swings,…and then she wakes up nine months pregnant. She enlists her ex-best friend Hayley (Gabrielle Elyse) to help her out, and when they’re at the free clinic they find out that not only is this not a normal pregnancy, but it’s also not a human one.

It’s safe to say that this is where the horror and sci-fi elements kick in, and there is a lot of bloodshed. The alien creature that Sara births is fast and ruthless — and it turns out it can also latch on and control human bodies. And then they realize that Sara’s belly isn’t shrinking: There’s something else in there. Adding another creature to the mix takes things up another notch, of course. While at first no one believes Sara and Hayley’s story, they soon find out that it is, unfortunately, true. But the creatures won’t go down without a fight (or many fights).

The designs of the aliens are pretty cool, and while they’re not incredibly unique, they don’t feel generic either. The first one is smaller and feels more like an enlarged insect, while the second one is large and reminiscent of something like the alien queen from “Aliens” — not entirely in the aesthetic aspect, but in the form and function. You can tell there are plenty of practical effects used in “Snatchers,” which is refreshing.

The cast’s performances are strong, especially the two leads, Nepi and Elyse. They pivot between petty drama, extreme fear and stubbornness to survive. “Snatchers” is just as much about friendship — and relationships as a whole — as it is about weird alien creatures killing a bunch of people.

Mary Nepi (L) and Gabrielle Elyse as Sara and Hayley

It was written by co-directors Stephen Cedars and Benji Kleiman along with Scott Yacyshyn. They’ve said that they all grew up with older sisters who had “intense high school experiences,” which served as inspiration for this idea: “With Sara and Hayley, we strived to create characters that shared the same hopes, fears, flaws and strengths as our sisters.”

The dialogue in this movie is one of the things that stands out most. The movie “Juno” gets a verbal reference in “Snatchers,” for the teen pregnancy. But the lingo used in this film is also reminiscent. Everyone who watched “Juno” remembers “That ain’t no Etch-A-Sketch. This is one doodle that can’t be un-did, Homeskillet.” Well, the dialogue in “Snatchers” feels slightly more organic, with uses of the word “grody” (gross) and Sara repeatedly exclaiming, “WTFuck!” It’s never hard to follow, but there’s no shortage of slang.

“Snatchers” poster

Some promotional materials said that this film is like a mixture of “Mean Girls” and “Gremlins,” and both of those movies are accurate comparisons. There’s even a “Why are you so obsessed with me?” a la “Mean Girls.”

And while there is plenty of horror and gore (plus a sci-fi plot), the comedy comes first. It’s a laugh-out-loud funny movie, and comedy fans will even recognize funnyman Rich Fulcher from “The Mighty Boosh” and “Snuff Box.” That’s not such a surprise, as the creators of the movie have a background in sketch comedy. But they’re great at bringing the human element to it, with relationships that the audience cares about and wants to see succeed. There’s a surprising amount of realism to this alien pregnancy movie.

You can still catch “Snatchers” at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar on:

Tuesday, March 12 at 11:30 p.m.

Thursday, March 14 at 4:45 p.m.

Don’t sleep on this one! Get all the stories from SXSW here, and to follow the Shuffle team’s whereabouts during the next week be sure to visit our Instagram and Twitter.  

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