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  Assimilate Doubling Down
Year: 2019
Director: John Murlowski
Stars: Joel Courtney, Calum Worthy, Andi Matichak, Katherine McNamara, Cam Gigandet, Mason McNulty, Terry Dale Parks, Vito Viscuso, Jennifer Pierce Mathus, Kevin Remington, Tonetta Weaver, Amye Gousset, Kyler Porche, Megan Fay, Byron Hughes
Genre: Horror, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Zach (Joel Courtney) and Randy (Calum Worthy) are a pair of teens who have been best friends since childhood, and now they have discovered the possibilities of the internet, have set up a video channel to tell the wider world about how boring their small town is. They have invested in a hidden camera that can be concealed in a collar so they can record the behaviour of the locals they disdain, lightheartedly but nevertheless sincerely, and upload the results to their social media account, but one of the ladies they speak to has pointed out something weird: a species of insect that swarms in a very strange manner. They're not exactly fascinated, but it's different - but they should be paying attention, for this will be big.

When Jack Finney penned The Body Snatchers in 1954, he had no idea what he would be spawning, a rash of clones across the culture that emulated the outer space villains of his fiction, starting with the classic Don Siegel movie from the following year. Remakes of that followed, and variations on those remakes too, with Robert Rodriguez's The Faculty probably the closest in style to this low budgeter Assimilate, but by this stage it was pointless to complain about lack of originality in genre films and television, especially when every science fiction show from the decades previous has put on their own evil double episode where the cast got to let their hair down as wicked duplicates of themselves, or at least be invaded by a space parasite with similar effects.

This tried to have that both ways, featuring as it did both a space parasite and those pod people which were its product, its modus operandi involving biting the victims and taking their DNA, then transforming into a pod from which a copy emerges to take your place - a refinement Finney could have used. If you wanted a Body Snatchers variant directed by the man who gifted the world Santa with Muscles, then that's what was on offer here, but despite his toiling in the factories of movie schlock for most of his career, John Murlowski did not do too bad a job in this, at least proving he could manage a decent genre flick had he been given a fair amount of money to work with. As it was, here the lack of funds did show, particularly when special effects were required, giving it a look of a nineties straight to video project in many places.

However you used the resources you had, and recognising it was difficult to concoct a dud out of this cast iron premise (not that some had not managed it), Assimilate was diverting in its modest way, every so often, against the odds of its resources, erupting into a setpiece that was satisfying and effective as well, such as the sequence where the heroes are surrounded in a mobile home and the pod people proceed to upend and roll the whole thing over, offering us the view from inside as everything goes flying. There was also the way that the pod people were, naturally, hatched nude, which gave rise to scenes of the cast being chased around by stark naked versions of themselves, a situation which had a neat hint of exploitation sleaze while remaining pleasingly freaky. That cast was solid, with Courtney and Worthy joined by Andi Matichak (of the previous year's Halloween reboot) as an ally and making for a plucky trio who initially appeared as if they might be irritants but learn responsibilities over the course of one nightmare night. OK, it's not the best version of Finney's tale, but it was by no means the worst, either. Music by Sven Faulconer.

[AVAILABLE DIGITALLY IN THE UK AND IRELAND ON APRIL 12 2021.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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