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No One Can Hear You Scream: Scary Sci-Fi Double-Features For Halloween Night

It’s Halloween, finally. The one day of the year people will finally stop staring at me funny for spending all day in the graveyard. I’m taking a break from all the tomb wandering to offer up a list of suggestions for how to invoke the dark lord of science into your Wednesday EEKvening. When science fiction is mixed with spooky scares, the results are more often than not worse than dreadful. Luckily, there are blood diamonds in the rough, and I present a variety of them to you in Double-Feature form, since things always work better in pairs, like blondes and machetes. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I welcome all suggestions that weren’t included. Nothing makes me happier than finding out about a movie that slipped past me. Except for, you know, spending all day in this graveyard…You know what? I’m just going to drop this whole character thing. Let’s get to the list.

(Just so we’re clear, I’m assuming Prometheus got everyone rewatching Alien already this year, so it’s not on the list.)


The Thing & Signs
What the fuck am I talking about, you ask? Something strictly situational. Please calm down. If you’re spending Halloween with one to three friends or relatives in a secluded location, a cabin perhaps. You put The Thing on, and suddenly the room gets a little bit smaller. Because Kurt Russell is on the screen, you’re pounding back beer by the fist full, and suddenly, your trip to the bathroom every five minutes is taking longer and longer to get through because you’re looking behind every piece of furniture, waiting for the slimy thing to pounce.

Once that’s over, and the tenseness has subsided and the buzz is good and maximized, pop Signs in and fake your way through enjoying another claustrophobic flick. This, instead of being outrightly badass like The Thing, is pretty good in every way except for actually being good. But it’s a good movie to share conspiracy theories with, to drunkenly look for awesome crop circles online, and to talk about how much better the kids in this movie are doing than the adults.

Substitute: Swap Signs for the recent found-footage horror flick Area 407 for another alien-tinged disappointment that doesn’t demand your attention as the conversation around the room turns to probing.


Timecrimes & Primer
Ideally, the best way to watch two time travel thrillers is to actually own a time machine yourself, so that you can go back to before you knew the familiar tropes of the genre. But to me, these two are great examples of what one can do with little money and a great story. If anything, the back-to-back viewing might help in understanding Primer’s complex potential beyond the celluloid.

Timecrimes, or Los Cronocrímenes, is the clever 2007 debut from Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo. Watch this one first, because it has no interest in leaving viewers confused in telling the story of a husband who witnesses a possible abduction and spends the film trying to undo the mistakes he keeps making. The heart behind this strange loop of events is sincere, after all is said and done, but there is a creeping menace behind every scene that is a rarity in a film from any genre.

Take 10 minutes to consider what you’ve just seen, and then take another 10 minutes to mentally prepare yourself for Primer, a $7,000 indie passion project by Shane Carruth. Carruth, much like Vigalondo, acts in the film himself, and both are beyond convincing. The dialogue spoken by these characters starts off jargon-heavy, as they somehow create a machine that gives off slightly more energy than it burns. But once the time travel kicks in proper, nobody even has to talk in order for the confusion to run rampant. It isn’t as complicated as it seems, but the conversations that it inspires can be two and three times longer than the movie itself. This double feature is for those who want to spend Halloween fearing the head-on collision between paradoxes and technology.

Substitute: Donnie Darko for Timecrimes if you’re under 17 or still wear black nail polish during the week.


Sunshine & Event Horizon
This combination requires a certain amount of hallucinogens in order to really bring out the holiday. There are some non sequitur moments in both of these movies that are a lot easier to avoid trying to understand if your mind is too warped to consider it.

Danny Boyle’s Sunshine sustains a really great pace with a desolate atmosphere, as a spaceship races toward a dying sun. Having the sun die is a scary enough thought so long as you avoid pointing out the flaws within the rescue plan put forth by these characters. Weird crap starts happening, and before you can say “Why wasn’t Nicolas Cage given this role?” Mark Strong comes in and the entire movie gets fucking ridiculous until the credits roll. This is when the acid should be kicking in. This is when you stop caring about narratives.

After getting over the peak, Event Horizon is there to make you freak out all over again. It’s another one of those movies that, when held beneath a microscope, is pretty flawed (as is every single Paul W. S. Anderson contribution), but it’s magnificent in the ways it does this. Sam Neill, and all of his character’s dreams and visions, does a great job of standing out in the memory, dulling the disappointment caused by a reliance on action over mystery as the film progresses. Still though, empty eye sockets.

Substitute: Sphere for either film if the acid or mushrooms aren’t effective.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956 and 1978 versions)
Twenty-two years makes a world of difference in tone. Watch the earlier version first if you’re interested in starting with a lighter film, or the latter one if you want the scarier version. And you’ll do yourself a favor if you avoid all the other remakes, whether they carry the same name or not.

A genuine classic, the 1956 version was more interested in science fiction for its own sake, peppered with over-the-top performances and pods. The 1978 version, featuring a Donald Sutherland in his prime, is just as much a film of its time, in the post-Nixon era where trust in others ran thin. Great acting, great set pieces, great movie.

Substitute: Both films for Disturbing Behavior and The Faculty, before seeking immediate professional help.


The Fly and David Cronenberg Mash-Up
On Halloween, no guts, no glory, and no fun. But no one ever really has to suffer that fate so long as Cronenberg’s filmography still exists. You know he’s making sci-fi because there are always screens everywhere, and his horror is all the more disturbing because of his predilection for body parts in extreme duress.

Start with The Fly and stare in horror at Jeff Goldblum’s hair, and then be surprised when you find out it’s not the nastiest-looking thing in the movie. Much more a polar opposite of the original than the Body Snatchers remake, this film is a tribute to 1980s excess. Brundlefly is one of the most insanely disgusting creatures I’ve ever seen, every single time I see it. The hair, oh God, the hair!

You’re not going to get the taste of saliva-drowned sugar out of your mouth, so you might as well set up a wall of TVs, and put on almost everything Cronenberg did before The Fly. The V.D. parasites of Shivers. The zombie takeover in Rabid. The mutants of The Brood. The head explosions of Scanners. And the TV insanity of Videodrome. If this column had an award, he would win for Lifetime Achievement.

There are no substitutions.

So there you go. There isn’t that much time left in the day. Hit up Netflix and Amazon Video. Run to Blockbuster. (The one that still exists in the next town.) Discreetly borrow from your friend’s movie collection. Have a great Halloween. Be safe. Eat your store-bought candy in front of a television. And again, let me know what else we should be watching, since scary movies are good even beyond Halloween. Rare Exports, anyone?

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