Aliens invade the Earth in Japanese horror filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Before We Vanish” a science fiction drama based on the 2005 play by Tomohiro Maekawa. Taking cues from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and John Carpenter’s “They Live” the airy film centers on three extraterrestrials on a mission to learn about the human race before they call in the full-on invasion. Occupying the bodies of human hosts, the two men and one woman steal “concepts” from people they encounter leaving their victims brainwashed. Apart from a couple of scenes that feature a nod to Hitchcock, the film disregards special effects to concentrate on the human psyche, which proves to be a complicated task.
A gruesome crime puts the invasion in motion as the first alien takes over the body of Akira (Yuri Tsunematsu) whose blood-stained schoolgirl uniform resembles an artifact from a Quentin Tarantino film. A reporter named Sakurai (Hiroki Hasegawa) called to investigate the scene becomes the unwitting guide to Akira and another alien named Amano (Mahiro Takasugi) who expose their plans to the journalist who sees the invasion as his big scoop.
The third alien surfaces in the body of Shinji (Ryuhei Matsuda) an inattentive husband to Narumi (Masami Nagasawa) whose marriage was on the rocks. She immediately notices a change in her husband, for the better, as the alien turns out to be a much kinder and caring partner. She suspects something has happened to her husband, but an alien invasion is the farthest from her mind.
“Before We Vanish” is a look at the components that make us all human. As we watch the three body snatchers steal the thoughts of humans we see a transformation take place especially in Shinji, that helps them understand the qualities that make us so special. Sure, we will eventually destroy ourselves, pointed out by the aliens, but the human race is too complicated to be solely characterized by our flaws.
The concept of “love” which we all know is pretty complicated seems to be the most difficult emotion for our space travelers to comprehend. Compassion makes its way to the surface amidst all the bloodshed, violence, and explosions in this parable about the spiritual essence of humanity.
Opens today at Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar (Austin) and 02/21 at Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park (Houston).