The universe can seem like a frightening place, with giant flying death rocks and exploding balls of gas all swimming in a sea of endless black. So often have scientists and paranoid children looked upon the sky and wondered if we are truly alone in the wide expanse of space. For decades films have played a role in trying to satiate our curiosity of the unknown but one particular genre, namely sci-fi horror, has had a knack for turning our starcrossed question into the stuff of nightmares. Honestly, why wouldn’t they? The idea of cosmic beings or creatures coming to our world to violate our sense of normality is a captivating and terrifying prospect that exploits our most primal fear. The fear of the unknown. In commemoration of the return of the genre’s favourite dreadlocked crowned alien manhunters in The Predator making its way to the theatre this month we decided to show some love to some Sci-Fi horror classics. Films that mainly focus on far out and foreign monstrosities that make us glad we haven’t found life outside of earth. So lock your doors and watch the skies because here are five amazing alien horror films while we wait for The Predator.
Here are 5 scary Sci-Fi films that are totally out of this world.
1. A Quiet Place (2018)
In spite of its relatively recent debut in cinemas, A Quiet Place is a welcome addition to sci-fi horror film canon, directed by and starring Office actor John Krasinski, alongside his wife Emily Blunt as co-lead. The world, alluded in the title of the film, has indeed become a quiet place since a race of ravenous sound-seeking aliens have effectively hunted down humanity to near extinction. The only survivors of this attack have been those that have learned to adapt to a life of silence and solitude, the Abbott family for example. We follow Lee and his family as they try their best to weather through the dark days of living in fear of the dangers beyond their farm and home. Lee is also struggling to connect to his daughter after a traumatic incident. To make matters worse, a series of accidents and mishaps alert the creatures to their abode and now the family must make a stand against them.
A Quiet Place works well and generously within its conceptual playground, creating a world that feels believable and lived in. The film can be described as the world’ deadliest game of AEIOU with all the thrills cranked up to 11. Krasinski and Blunt do well enough as the pair of phonophobic worrisome parent making a way in this crazy new world. Perhaps being married to your co-star for 8 years and having two kids of your own help. Krasunski is your calm, collective father who rallies the family together in this time of turmoil. Blunt is believable as the traumatized, caring mother to their two kids. The real emotional anchor of the film is the deaf daughter played by Milicent Simmonds who struggles with deep survivor’s guilt. The effects used on the creatures here are truly unique as the near entirety of their head works as a sort of mega-ear, picking up the slightest sounds. A Quiet Place will have you gripping your seats and holding your breath from start to badass finish.
2. The Mist (2007)
I can think of no better word to describe this film other than Lovecraftian. Pure Lovecraftian horror. The moody author’s work has always been marked a distinct air of cosmic despair and nihilism. Born from the notion that the universe is cold and indifferent to the existence of man and that we are but mere insects to forces too great and horrific for mortal comprehension. If you’re looking for a film to fill you with existential dread, then boy do I have just the thing for you. Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, The Mist sees a group of survivors taking up in a local supermarket after a military experiment gone wrong unleashes a mysterious mist into town. Along with it comes otherworldly creatures that begins to close in on the humans. The situation begins to become increasingly more desperate as residents begin to descend into madness. For painter David Drayton and a small group of survivors, they aren’t too sure of which is worse, the evil within or outside.
The Mist is an absolute blast to watch even when it descends into the campy territory. It’s clear that King and the director Frank Darabont isn’t satisfied with just telling a by-the-numbers alien flick. The film is an unsettling look into the state of the human condition when confronted with evils beyond our control, tackling subjects from religious fanaticism to utilitarian morals. Actor Thomas Jane as Drayton does a great job of playing the audience’s everyman conduit. He isn’t so much there to be an active hero than he is victim of circumstance. He’s meant to make us feel vulnerable as we react along with him to the horrors around him. There’s even a scene that mirrors the Brontosaurus scene in Jurassic Park in a sick, perverse fashion. By the end of it all, you’re left wondering if there was ever any meaning behind Drayton’ pain and loss. The Mist’s bold proposition that our existence is all part of some sick joke is both well translated and wildly entertaining.
3. Slither (2006)
Our next candidate goes out to all the parasitophobics out there. This we’re not just talking about the fear within in a vague, philosophical sort of way. We’re talking about the LITERAL evil within with creatures from another world tearing us up from the inside out and violating the very sanctity of the human form. For us, nothing quite gives us the hibbie jibbies like James Gunn’s horror comedy Slithers. In the town of Wheelsy, South California a meteorite carrying an alien parasite lands on it. They are creatures that burrow deep into their human host and began to mutate their biology into grotesque parodies of the host’s former self. They can hide in their human host, waiting to strike and infect anyone that comes into contact with them, these red slugs that slither like unholy tongues! For Wheelsy, their only salvation comes by way of Sheriff Bill Prady and his old flame Starla Grant to stop the parasitic invasion before it consumes the whole town.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen some good old fashion body horror and I can say without a shadow of the doubt Mr Cronenberg would be damn proud. Witnessing the transformation of a simple resident into a writhing, bloated tentacle-armed monster is such a vile and yet fascinating experience. Gunn doesn’t spare our gentle bellies with a quick cut from infected human to ghastly mutant. We see their revolting metamorphosis in all its glory, whether their symptoms be a bloated belly, sprouting appendages or…meatloaf face. Still with all this parasite action going on, Gunn still manages to muster a few good laughs. Body horror as macabre as it may sound can provide a sort of gross out humour that doesn’t detract from the gravity of the situation. Some of the lines do dip into the realm of cringey but with charm just oozing out of Nathan Fillion as Sheriff Prady, it’s hard not to be won over. Slithers will have you gagging from sick sense of comedic timing and body horror antics.
4. Alien (1979)
Surprise, surprise Ridley Scott’s Alien made it on this list. Of course it would! The Xenomorphs of the Alien universe has long been an icon of sci-fi horror. I know there’s probably a lot folks out there that prefer Cameron’s Aliens but if we’re being honest here its predecessor was clearly scarier. Aliens has more in common with Starship Trooper than it does with the conventional horror film so we went the sounder option. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the film is follows a group scientist going travelling into space on the Nostromo, a spacecraft sponsored by the Weyland-Yutani corporation. They awake from cryo-sleep on their way back to earth and discover a distress beacon from an alien vessel. When they arrive, they notice the pilots were killed by something. That certain something just so happens to make its way onto the Nostromo and the rest is textbook from there.
Now we could go on about how Sigourney Weaver and Ian Holm and how their performances made the film but that’s already been done. So instead we’re paying our respects to Mr H.P. Giger, the man responsible for the creature design. There’s something about the Xenomorphs that make feel…alien. It’s not uncommon for studios to slap a green, bipedal rubber suit on a guy back then and called it a day. Not these guys though, the Xenomorphs’ design resembled something part reptilian and machine. So much of its’ biological features aren’t just there show, they have an actual practical application from their scorpion like tail to their secondary, extendable mouth. Even with such a brilliant beast, Scott still understood the importance of maintaining its mystique, making good use of silence and lighting to build atmosphere. Safe for its sequel, no film has managed to measure up to its mindful majesty, not even Scott’s future films in the franchise. It was lightning in a bottle!
5. The Thing (1982)
Imagine waking up and finding everyone you’ve ever cared about has been replaced with an exact replica of them. Every time, you turn around you see a shadow of what they truly but before you realize, it’s already far too late. Well, you don’t really have to picture it with John Carpenter’s The Thing. This isn’t the first time the film has appeared on one of our articles and for good reason as well. The setup for the film is so elegantly simple: 12 men living in the middle of the Antarctic find themselves stranded in a research facility, a shape shifting alien is let loose into the facility. It soon becomes a deadly game of Russian Roulette as the men must figure out which of them are human and who is actually the terror incognito. Much like the creature itself, The Thing succeeds at being a horror film of multiple subgenres. On one hand, it is an excellent psychological thriller that plays on the paranoia and tension with strong personalities clashing. On the other, it’s also an amazing body horror film with great effects and puppet work. The Thing also adopts a more atmospheric approach, silently foreshadowing until it’s time for the big reveal.
One thing that needs to be highlighted is the score in the film composed by Italian composer Ennio Morricone and assisted by Carpenter. The use of a synth made the score feel almost heartbeat like in the way it ebbs and flows with the tension on screen. Carpenter at the time was embarrassed with the score, even positing that it was more sound effect than score. However, his minimalist approach to it allowed for the film to shine as a true cabin fever classic. Since its release, the film has been analyzed to death. Interpretations range from Cold War allegories to Lovecraft to feminism. Regardless of what you think or look for in the film, The Thing is undoubtedly one of the greatest sci-fi horror films of all time and one that any of the genres should own on DVD!
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