In space, no one can hear you scream like a little girl.
James Wan’s The Conjuring is getting solid reviews and angling to try and conquer the box office this weekend, but let’s face it. After a long week of work, not everybody feels up to braving the madness of opening-weekend crowds at the local multiplex. But fear not, fear junkies — if you’ve got a craving for some goosebumps and don’t want to leave the house, we here at GFR have rounded up seven perfectly creepy flicks that like a little horror mixed in with their science fiction. Switch off the lights, pop some popcorn, and try really hard to convince yourself that you didn’t just see something move out of the corner of your eye…
Where else to begin than what is, unquestionably, the best example of sci-fi/horror ever to grace the screen. It’s a testament to the quality and impact of Ridley Scott’s film that it’s still being explored today, 30+ years later. And while other projects have explored the Alien universe over the the years, none have managed to equal the claustrophobic, slow-burn terror of Scott’s masterpiece. (I’d argue that James Cameron’s Aliens is as good, or nearly so, but they are two very different films with very different tones.) It’s damn near a perfect film, and no list of sci-fi/horror would be complete without it.
The Blob (1988)
I rewatched this recently, and I’m surprised how well it holds up. Taking the somewhat corny premise of the 1958 original and throws in some solid modern (for 1988) effects and some truly impressive gore effects. It never tries to invent the…er, blob wheel…but it knows what it’s going for and then goes for it with gusto. The script was an early credit for Frank Darabont, who went to write and executive produce AMC’s The Walking Dead…for the first season, at least. If you’ve never seen it, track down a copy and find out why you’ll never look at a sink drain or phone booth the same way again.
Event Horizon (1997)
Event Horizon is one of those divisive flicks where you either love it or hate it. And I mean hate it hate it, like “That movie killed my wife” kind of hatred. This is another one I revisited recently, after first seeing it years ago on cable. There’s no getting around the fact that Event Horizon has plenty of flaws, but there’s also no arguing that, when it’s firing on all cylinders, it can be seriously creepy and unsettling. It unfolds like a nightmare, and it’s proof that sometimes tone and style can make up for a mediocre script. It makes me wonder how much more effective it would have it been in the hands of a director not named Paul Anderson (who went on to write and direct the Resident Evil movies, a footnote that speaks volumes). But hey: eyeless Sam Neill!
The Fly (1986)
Body horror has rarely been done better than in David Cronenberg’s The Fly. Strangely enough, just like The Blob, The Fly is another mid-eighties remake of a 1958 film (the original’s cast included the legendary Vincent Price. Alien presented the gut-twisting idea of a parasite that hides inside you, before eventually bursting forth in a display both painful and gory. The Fly focuses on the equally horrific idea of losing your humanity and your body itself as your biology morphs into something else. Jeff Goldblum’s performance is one of the best of his career, playing a man of science who is first fascinated by his transformation, even as his sanity slips away. Also, The Fly is hands-down the most disgusting movie on this list, and that’s got to count for something.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
And speaking of body horror and Jeff Goldblum, Invasion of the Body Snatchers also traffics in a deeply primal fear, but here that terror is not just about losing your own self, but in watching the people you care most becoming something else, something alien. That’s pure nightmare fuel, man. Take your pick between the 1956 version or the 1978 remake. Both are solid flicks, but I tend to lean towards the ‘70s version, if only for the fact that it wraps up with one of the best movie endings of all time, a thoroughly bleak climax that you just know Hollywood will screw up when they get around to remaking it again (oh wait, they already did, and they already did). Don’t point, Donald Sutherland, it’s rude.
Here’s the bad news: alien space vampires are going to suck out your lifeforce. (Hence the title.) Here’s the good news: there’s a chance that the alien space vampire sucking out your lifeforce looks like a naked, circa-1985 Mathilda May. Silver linings, people. Gotta find ‘em while you can. I’ll be honest: Lifeforce is easily the least frightening movie on this list, but I’ve always had a soft spot for it. That’s probably at least partially down to the fact that Alien screenwriter Dan O’Bannon penned the script. Of course, it’s also been years since I saw the thing, so my fondness may be clouded with cataracts made of nostalgia. (Incidentally, “Cataracts Made of Nostalgia” is the name of my They Might Be Giants cover band.)
The Thing (1982)
We opened with the greatest science fiction/horror mashup movie of all time, so it only makes sense to close up with the first runner up. Add John Carpenter’s flick to the equation alongside The Blob, The Fly, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers and you’ve got a solid argument that not all remakes are inherently bad. Carpenter’s Thing takes the core concepts and setting of the 1951 original — and the original John W. Campbell Jr.’s short story, “Who Goes There? on which both films were based — and then turns the terror up to eleven by reimagining the so-called Thing as a shapeshifting mass of shifting flesh, capable of impersonating anyone with nigh undetectable accuracy. Top-notch performances from a cast that includes Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, and more. It’s also the only movie on this list that can claim a better ending than Invasion of the Body Snatchers. “Why don’t we just…sit here a little while. See what happens.”