What with being two genres that work in the land of disbelief, you would think that horror and science fiction would work well together – yet there are only a small handful of movies that prove that this is the case. There’s Alien, 28 Days Later, various iterations of Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, but you’re more likely to get “alien dressed as sexy woman” movies like Species and Lifeforce, or so-so family fare like Evolution. But, like noted sci-fi/horror cultural icon Fox Mulder, we can find great movies linking horror and sci-fi if we just dig a little deeper.
Microbudget isn’t always the best way to make a movie in these two conceptual genres, but Pod is a little-known next-gen gem that relies on more than just the expense to make it work – great acting (particularly from modern scream queen Lauren Ashley Carter), a simple premise, and great creature design. This is a stressful movie, in which the family dynamic between estranged siblings is just as intense as whatever may be trapped in the basement, and it works on the sheer quality of its basic cinematic language – not to mention a brilliantly tense cast chemistry to boot.,
Attack the Block
John Boyega was screwed by Star Wars, we all know it, so instead of wondering what the hell Finn had to tell Rey, watch Boyega’s star turn in this British alien invasion movie. Like Pod, Attack the Block uses a simple premise, merged with dynamic and emotive camera work that is both a little freaky and at times exhilarating. This is one of the most iconic British horrors of the last twenty years, and is fairly getting a re-evaluation as everyone realized just how fucking amazing John Boyega is and that we actually want to see him in everything.
Not all sci-fi horror needs to be about aliens or monsters (though most of it is). Sometimes it’s about hard science, as in Nacho Vigalondo’s brilliant debut feature Timecrimes, a time-travel slasher horror that is far from what it seems. One of those Russian nesting dolls of a movie, it’s best to go into Timecrimes knowing as little as possible so I’ll just say this: watch it!
No one seemed to know what to make of Vivarium when it came out, which could be one of the reasons I avoided it for so long. Curiosity, and being a fan of both Imogen Poots and Jesse Eisenberg, I finally gave it a go, and it was deeply unsettling. Calling Vivarium a sci-fi horror might give the game away, but this strange little movie is definitely worth a watch, as it blossoms into something far bleaker than it initially seems. As the story moved forward I was more and more reminded of the stories of Ray Bradbury – and that alone should be enough to recommend it.
Dark Skies is not a classic by any means – when it came out it felt like Insidious with aliens, – but it lands a place on this list by deftly telling a layered story of familal paranoia, plus it stars Keri Russell which makes The Ameicans fan in me very happy. You might have written this off when it first came out, but trust me, it deserves another shot.
By Kevin Boyle
Header Image: Slant Magazine