Congrats! You’ve wandered down to the end of the cul-de-sac and discovered the world of sci-fi-horror. Is is horror? Is it sci-fi? Is it horror-sci-fi? Does it have space aliens? Are those furry little space aliens scary?
Did Inseminoid make the list of the Top 10 sci-fi horror films of all time? Is it Friday the 13th part 10 and has Jason Voorhees found himself on Russian Space Station Mir? Does Critters count? Do the films have to be in outer space or can they simply be relegated to the comfortable confines of gravity-fed planet earth. All of the above? Very possibly. It’s hard to find a more polemic and more broad horror sub genre than sci-fi horror. Going all the way back to 1902’s sci-fi adventure film Trip to the Moon, the sci-fi genre has been with us for well over a century. Packed with a massive catalog of brilliance, also rans, and total and complete trash.
The sub genre is littered with fascinating characters, mad scientists, space people, UFOs, and mind-bending ruminations on the human condition and our place (or not) in the universe. Such films as The Vampire Bat, Doctor X, and Dr. Cyclops defined a burgeoning horror landscape that was largely responsible for foundation of the wild and creative atomic age of horror. The 1950’s ushered in an impossible catalog of thinky popcorn fare for the masses and brought us the fascinating The Thing from Another World, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Tarantula, Them!, The Blob and a list of greatness far toooo long to mention.
Sometimes vague. Sometimes rather clear. Always thought provoking. Sci-fi-horror isn’t for everyone and often doesn’t pay off. But when it does…oh boy! It’s a treat that will have you really questioning your meager little spot on our big blue planet.
Jump head-long in to this sub-genre with this Top 10 list, and trust us, there’s some spacey stuff going on at the end of the cul-de-sac!
If you’ve listened to our podcast you’ve heard us blather plenty about this master class in horror — or as Eric described it — a haunted house in space. This was our universal choice for the best horror film of all time — TWICE! Everything about this film really is great. From soup to nuts Alien delivers on so many levels, but don’t be fooled, Alien may be the most clever homage and/or ripoff ever. Ed. Note: Ridley Scott, give us a call if you’d like to be on the podcast to discuss this further.
Something must have been in the water in 1979 because is really was a banner year for this spacey sub-genre. Phantasm toys with so many different elements of horror in a balanced and playful way. From slashers, to sci-fi, to ghastly morticians, to killer machines this film brings it all to the forefront. A wonderful coming of age time capsule of feathered hair, bosomy gals, urban legends, and bad-ass 1971 Plymouth Barracuda, taken together Phantasm won’t disappoint.
Another film that we here at the Scariest Things Podcast SWOON over — regularly and repeatedly. Why? It’s celluloid brilliance meets astounding practical effects innovation. A film so great it’s be made three times, and we might be getting a fourth! Maybe it’s the camaraderie of the cast as they try to push through suspicion and solve the mystery of what’s happening to them. Maybe it’s the wonderful character actors — Richard Dysart, Peter Maloney, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, the list goes on — putting their hearts and souls into the film. Or maybe it’s the undisputed artistic genius of Rob Bottin (The Fury, Maniac, and Piranha) and his special effects crew that captures the attention of effects junkies and monster movie nerds. Whatever the reason, The Thing continues to scare, revolt, and entertain old fans and new alike even decades years later.
The most sci-fi of all the sci-fi horror films? It certainly has one heck of legit reason to claim this prize. Following the super-earnest and hyper-focused scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldbloom) who can’t let go of his somewhat incomplete teleportation device — the telepod. He tries and tries and tries. Thanks to the master of body horror David Cronenberg, each successive try is a gory mess of stinky failure. Portland local Chris Walas even won an Academy Award for his makeup effects. Yes, the effects are that good.
You want fun? You want more gore than you’ve ever seen? You want Pam from The Office? You want space aliens? Have we got the film for you! Over the top, gooey special effects, and some of the best acting you’ve seen in a horror film courtesy of Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker, and of course Pam (Jenna Fischer) from The Office. Slither even has a voice role from our fav’ — Rob Zombie! This space alien/zombie plague is packed full of contagious energy that never takes itself too seriously, but interestingly, is a reasonable look a how we might actually respond to a space alien/zombie plague.
It’s Frankenstein. It’s Lovecraftian horror. It’s GORE. It’s the complete package. Staring horror legends Jeffery Combs and Barbara Crampton, this film follows the bumbling attempts to bring cats and humans back to life. Set in Miskatonic University in Arkham, Massachusetts features a lot of bodies, severed heads, and powerful and persistent entrails. If you need a little gore in your Lovecraft, then a VHS copy of Re-Animator will be waiting for you at your local Salvation Army.
The Fast and Furious of the horror genre! Not just because it features Vin Diesel in his breakout role, but because it is RE-LENTLESS. The pacing of this alien fete is heart-pounding from the first minute to the last. Following the prevails of a crashed commercial space transport ship carrying some questionable cargo (Riddick), the crew finds itself contending with a super-eclipse brought them by way of three suns. Now they get to deal with the speedy space aliens in PITCH BACK darkness.
A relative newcomer to the world of horror, John Krasinski’s directorial debut certainly made a mighty impact. Coming in at 46 on the top 100 horror films of all time, this subtle and sly film will have you gasping for your breath. John Krasinski and his real life wife Emily Blunt play husband and wife forced to deal with an alien invasion not unlike the famed 1898 H.G. Wells novel, War of the Worlds. Don’t talk. Don’t make a sound. The aliens are here and they can hear you.
Director Panos Cosmatos is full of weird, spacey, and otherworld ideas and visions. His world view is like no other. It’s both tight and claustrophobic and expansive and endless. Set in the future and the past, Beyond the Black Rainbow follows a heavily drugged and hallucinatory young woman as she fights for her freedom from the new-age institute know only as Arboria. This film is full of shots you’ve never seen, characters you’ve never met, and a non-linear plot that will have you scratching your head for weeks on end.
As we mentioned, it’s hard to find a more polemic and more broad horror sub genre than sci-fi horror, and this is certainly a divisive pick. Featuring the former Governor of California, the Terminator was really where James Cameron started to make his mark. Some might say it was with Piranha II: The Spawning, but who are we to argue. This cyber-assassin killing machine will not be stopped. He murders, kills, assassinates, and kills some more. This compelling sci-fi story has manufactured a mountain of spinoffs and with good reason — it’s a violent and horrifying death machine that just won’t quit.