Halloween Week

Halloween Week: Science Fiction Horror – The Essentials List

Last year, we covered Vampires, Shapeshifters, Ghosts and Slashers…and we ran out of time before we could cover one of our very favorite subgenres in the Horror-verse: we’re talking about Science Fiction Horror.

What could be better than a ravenous, marauding zombie horde? Why, a ravenous, marauding zombie horde…IN OUTER SPACE. Today, we give you a list of our favorites in the Science Fiction Horror crossover/subgenre. Bon Apetit.

Them! (1954)

The very first of the popular giant killer bugs films, Them! is the story of what happens to ants when they are subjected to atomic radiation (Hint: They grow to truck-sized monsters, impervious to anything but the strongest machine gun weapons, capable of crushing mere humans without a thought).

The Blob (1958)

When you think of 1950’s drive-in science fiction, one name dominates them all – The Blob. Starring Steve McQueen (before fame), this film about an amoeba-like blob creature from outer space that consumes everything in its path is a classic. Keep the fire extinguishers nearby, just in case.

Scanners (1981)

David Cronenberg is a name you’ll see more than a few times on this list. Scanners is a film about ConSec, an evil weapons/defense manufacturer that tries to use telekinetic/telepathic folks (also known as “Scanners”) for their own dastardly purposes. Plus, it’s got one of the coolest showdowns EVER. You know the scene:

Maximum Overdrive (1986)

Stephen King’s directorial debut (also the last film he ever directed); also written for the screen by the master of horror himself. Yeah, it’s a bit silly, but when I was a kid, this movie was made of awesome in my mind. And it still is. A comet passes close to Earth, engulfing the planet in some funky green cosmic gas. For the next 8 days, 29 minutes and 23 seconds, all the machines on the planet go berserk and attempt to kill their human masters. The soundtrack for the film – comprised entirely of AC/DC songs is pretty badass. And Emilio Estevez is in it (HEY, HEY EMIIIIIILIO!). AND you’ve got the wonderful, insane, evil nemesis…

The Green Goblin truck. Yeaaaaaah, baby.

The Fly (1986)

David Cronenberg again! This time, with a fantastic, surpassing remake of the ’50s classic, The Fly. You know the story – Hot Jeff Goldblum is Jeff Brundle, a scientist set on discovering how to teleport matter from one of his pods to another. He tries the thing out on himself, but a housefly makes it into his pod along with him, unbeknownst to the scientist. Over the next few days, he starts to change…This is deeply thematic, disgusting, enthralling scifi horror at its best. Brundle-fly used to scare the bejesus outta me. Still kinda does.

Altered States (1980)

Altered States is the story of a psychology professor that performs some really trippy, mind-bending experiments using crazy hallucinogenic mushrooms and a float-tank to unlock the secrets and realities of our own altered states of consciousness. When his experiments lead him to actually physically change (into various stages of de-evolution):

the professor (played by the ubercool William Hurt) must choose what is more important to him – life and love, or the ultimate secret of existence.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 & 1978)

I’m putting both the original ’50s film and the ’70s remake on the list, because both are superior films. The story is one everyone knows – an alien entity makes its way to earth in the form of plant-like pods, which replicate human hosts perfectly.

These human impostors – or “pod-people” – silently go about spreading, killing humans and replacing them with replicas. In the 1978 version, starring Donald Sutherland, and including roles from Leonard Nimoy (as a self-help mogul) and a young Jeff Goldblum, the spirit of the ’50s film is preserved and built upon – making an even more complex, important film. Most memorably, the ’70s remake is the advent of “The Scream.”

Lifeforce (1985)

When a crew of astronauts go up to study Haley’s Comet, they find a spaceship in the comet’s head. And when the explore the mysterious spaceship, they find…VAMPIRES. I repeat. Space Vampires. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

(And you can watch most of the movie online courtesy of YouTube pirates)…

Videodrome (1983)

Hey, it’s David Cronenberg again! I don’t really know how to describe Videodrome. Does it really count as scifi/horror? It’s a surreal, weirdo trip. This cable producer of skinemax-grade soft-core porn is looking for something new for his network when he’s introdouced to an S&M/snuff program called “Videodrome”. And it brainwashes people but also results in body mutations including a stomach that can absorb things like video tapes and guns and…looks kinda like female genetalia…and then later James Woods shoots with his funky gun hand and the bullets are tumors that rupture and…Yeah, I’ll let the clip speak for itself. Death to Videodrome! Long live the new flesh!

Sunshine (2007)

Visually stunning movie about humanity’s last-ditch effort to “jump-start” our sun so as to save the Earth from a slow, cold death, Sunshine has its moments. Yeah, the script is a little stupid and falls apart on itself in the third act (it goes from cabin-fever scifi to Freddy Krueger in outer space/Event Horizon ripoff), but the visuals are just breathtaking. Despite the fact that the premise is shaky, it’s an entertaining movie, and worth at least renting.

Cube (1997)

All cards on the table – I love the Cube franchise. Cube, Cube 2: Hypercube, and Cube Zero are all fantastic, fun movies. Of course, the original film is the best of the lot. Six strangers wake up and find themselves alone in a cube shaped room with six doors on each panel of the room – each door leading to another cube room. Eventually they find each other in the strange supercube structure, and together they try to find a way out. Of course, things are never so simple – each potential new room may be “safe,” or it may be booby-trapped – with motion activated acid, flame throwers, razor wire, etc.

Night of the Creeps (1986) & Slither (2006)

I’m lumping these two together, as Slither is in many ways a tribute to Night of the Creeps (along with other classic horror goodies).

Leeches from outer space land on Earth and possess their human hosts, turning them into zombies. In the case of Night of the Creeps, the setting is a college town and features horror character actor Tom Atkins as Detective Ray Cameron. In the case of Slither, Nathan Fillion stars as Sheriff Bill Pardy, with the gorgeous Elizabeth Banks as Starla and awesome Michael Rooker as alien-host Grant. Both films are MUST BUYS. And, for those blu-ray inclined, you’ll be happy to know that Night of the Creeps was just recently released in that format. So, hop to!

Dark City (1998)

Starring Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connelly and Kiefer Sutherland, Dark City is a noirish scifi/thriller/horror film about a man who wakes up with no memory of his past – but he finds himself in a hotel room with a murdered, mutilated woman. Murdoch, the man learns is his name, is wanted for a string of murders, none of which he can remember. Gradually, he pieces together his old life, and with the aid of Dr. Schreber, discovers that he has powers that could change everything. A beautifully shot movie with a great script, strong actors, and even a love story to boot, Dark City is another must-own.

Event Horizon (1997)

Before Laurence Fishburn became Morpheus, intrepid captain of the Nebuchadnezzar, he was Captain Miller of the Lewis and Clark, on a mission to explore and bring home the starship Event Horizon – a ship that launched nearly ten years prior, only to disappear without a trace beyond Neptune’s orbit when it attempted to use its experimental gravity drive to bend time-space. Now, seven years later, the ship has reappeared outside Neptune’s orbit, and the crew of the Lewis and Clark, along with Event Horizon creator, Doctor William Weir (played by Sam Neill) are there to investigate. The ship, however, has gone much, much further than anyone could have anticipated, and hungrily awaits the new crew. Event Horizon is my second favorite SciFi Horror film, and one of my all time favorites. Absolutely essential.

The Thing (1981)

I posted about this yesterday, so I’ll be brief. But seriously, one of the finest SciFi Horror flicks ever made, and one of the finest remakes EVER.

Alien & Aliens (1979 & 1986)

What can I say about these seminal, genre-spanning films? Ridley Scott’s Alien is, unabashedly, the best of the SciFi Horror Genre. I dare anyone to tell me otherwise. Thirty years later, the special effects of this movie are still impressive and it never feels dated – and that is quite the achievement for a science fiction film. I’ll keep it brief, since dear Ana is going to be writing at length concerning these two films – but they are simply made of win. And also, Ripley? She’s my hero. Sigourney Weaver is so incredibly badass.

So there you have it! Our list of favorite Science Fiction Horror films. We’re certain we’ve left some off the list – any other favorites you’d care to share?

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42 Comments

  • Gerd Duerner
    October 28, 2009 at 4:02 am

    Bravo, you pretty much covered the essential viewing there. I would still recommend to watch the original “The thing” even though it feels a bit silly by now, but as a child it was a genuine scare for me. Carrots from Space, scary indeed.

    I guess those that like “Them” might also enjoy to watch “Tarantula”, which didn’t age as well as “Them” but is still worth a look.

    A fave of mine that treads on the thin line between Horror and Sci-Fi is the British movie “Phase IV” from the 70’s, intelligent ants bend on world domination, scary stuff!

  • Lenore
    October 28, 2009 at 4:04 am

    Cube had such an exciting premise but really, really horrible acting. Still, I enjoyed it. Cube 2: Hypercube was a bit of a disapointment (though the acting was marginally better). I didn’t even know about the existence of Cube Zero. Going to have to check it out!

  • Diana Peterfreund
    October 28, 2009 at 5:41 am

    I’m actually really surprised by how many of those I’ve seen, because I avoid horror movies like the plague. I just can’t do it. (For instance, the only zombie film I’ve seen is Shaun of the Dead.) However, I love love love sci fi, so I guess some of them slip through.

    My dad is actually a huge fan of those old 50s ones, so I’ve seen almost all of them. That altered States screenshot is TERRIFYING. Aliens is one of my favorite films. I actually STUDIED Videodrome back in college (and wrote a paper comparing it with ExistenZ).

  • KMont
    October 28, 2009 at 5:51 am

    Hmmm, well, you’ve reminded me that I AM a fan of some kind of horror. I know – I’m shocked too! Yeah, still haven’t read any horror since that Dan Simmons book…

    But I enjoyed Dark City, Event Horizon, and of course, hubbster and I are huge fans of the Alien franchise, minus the nauseatingly awful Alien vs. Predator movies. Yack.

    Alien Resurrection has even grown on me and I was quite disgusted by it as it first seemed quite a departure from the first three. But yeah, time has made me slightly fonder of it. I think it’s because of Hellboy being in it. *g*

    OK, so you knew it might have been Meryl Streep in place of Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, right? I still cannot believe that.

  • Adrienne
    October 28, 2009 at 10:14 am

    War of the Worlds (the orignal, not the Tom Cruise remake) was a classic horror, doom & gloom-how could you not like aliens that arrive is ships that look like large swans? If no one has seen the orignial Thing (or called The Thing from Another World)made in 1951 was another classic b&w horror/aliens movie.

  • MaryK
    October 30, 2009 at 10:02 am

    Have you seen The Puppet Masters? Probably not up to your horror standards. 😉 But then, I’m easily scared. 🙂

    I think I’m going to watch The Invasion this weekend – a big step for me.

  • Folashade Kehinde
    February 21, 2011 at 9:35 am

    😀 i never read THE HOST BY STEPHENIE MEYER. MY FAVORITE SCI-FI MOVIE WAS BODY SNATCHERS.

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