Credit: Fantasia Fest
by Jake Pitre Featured Film

The Becomers — Zach Clark [Fantasia Fest ’23 Review]

August 1, 2023

Pandemic films seem to arrive now with an amount of healthy attendant skepticism. Do we really want to keep reliving these moments of our lives? Even more worryingly, won’t it be kind of annoying to do so? Nevertheless, Zach Clark’s The Becomers overcomes this preconceived notion of the pandemic film, effectively transcending how trite most commentary on the era has typically been. The film tells the tale of two aliens who come to Earth because of trouble on their home planet. Separated from each other, they try to find human bodies to take over — while also hoping to find each other, amounting to a desperate cosmic love story. 

Clark’s aliens-among-us narrative stands out by aligning us with the visitors; the film is uninterested in any Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style paranoia. We observe what amounts to absurdist cringe comedy, as the aliens try to fit in, speak in bizarre, stilted sentences, and end up in increasingly silly situations. You see, the aliens arrive in the middle of a pandemic, not to mention in the midst of some insane political theater involving a conspiracy theory-minded group kidnapping various governors who’ve been accused of sexual misconduct and satanic, ritualistic baby killing. Just another day in America. 

The aliens are fish-out-of-water characters that force the audience to identify with them and take stock of just how strange our world is. At one point, a couple (whose bodies are now host to the aliens) is visited by their friends, who talk about what the couple (when they were still human) posted about on their social media during lockdown — namely, troubling calls to violence. The scene may be a bit on-the-nose, but it’s really about how the aliens occupying these human bodies must now answer for the deranged behavior of said hosts — and with it, the sense that the aliens may have bitten off more than they can chew by inhabiting people who make their lives difficult by virtue of their subjective (re)shaping of reality. In other words, who really cares about body-snatching extraterrestrials in love when those who walk among us already are out there wreaking havoc. (Though written at the height of Covid, parts of the film’s premise and its emphasis on the surreality of human behavior even bring to mind those videos that keep going around of people on airplanes claiming another passenger isn’t real or former intelligence officials whistleblowing about the government hoarding “non-human biologics” from crashed UFOs.)

If it’s not clear by now, The Becomers walks a tightrope, engaging not only with what we were all feeling in 2020 and 2021, but also with larger political and cultural trends that have dominated the discourse, and continue threatening to engender a new crisis at any moment. Genre cinema, especially science fiction and horror, has always been adept at speaking to current social themes and issues in organic ways. At their best, these films tell us something about ourselves, and without resorting to lowest-common-denominator didacticism. Clark, whose last film was 2016’s wonderful Little Sister, manages to pull together body-swapping, squishy, gooey body horror, conspiracy-cult fringe groups, pandemic moralism, intergalactic devotion, and the loneliness epidemic into a moving, funny, and inventive exercise in sci-fi satire. Sure, not every point lands, but the film takes a relatively simple idea — Covid-centric feelings of alienation, made literal — and generally executes it well.

Published as part of Fantasia Fest 2023 — Dispatch 2.