Science fiction/horror movies are two great tastes that go great together. The hybrid genre has resulted in many classic films that have left a lasting impression with many. This week they AiPT! staff are joined by a mystery contributor to talk about their favorite sci-fi/horror movies.
What is your favorite science fiction/horror movie?Mystery Contributor: David Cronenberg’s Videodrome
Davis PIttman: For me, Aliens comes to mind, it’s just such a masterpiece and a really fun film to enjoy. Also, there’s Natalie Portman’s Annihilation, which is really good and is right up there with the best in this genre.
David Brooke: I’d go with Alien due to its narrative being small, but very impactful. It’s basically a haunted house movie in space and the first of its kind.
Forrest Hollingsworth: The Thing! The John Carpenter version, naturally. Although, I will admit that I don’t mind the 2011 reboot/prequel either and have been known to push it on people during Halloween season.
Michael Rosch: I got to go with Carpenter’s The Thing also. Alien would be a close second followed by Videodrome, but Carpenter’s The Thing is just a masterpiece. It’s a smart, contained thriller with great character conflict and brilliant practical special effects that completely hold up. And it keeps you unsettled and guessing even long after the movie is over. One of the truly great movie endings of all time. And I also remember the 2001 eponymous prequel not being as nearly as terrible as it should have been, though I don’t know if it qualifies as good either. I’d have to give it a rewatch.
What elements are needed for a good sci-fi/horror movie?MC: A high concept idea paired with an atmospheric setting.
Davis: Complex plot and story with an interesting to come in at some point. And I have to agree that atmosphere and visuals play a big role too.
David: A deeper meaning about people or society that wishes to kill us all.
Forrest: I like to walk away still thinking. Throw things at me to chew on: complex ideas, abstract visuals, deeper symbolism, all of that high concept stuff really appeals to me. If you can also make me a little scared to turn the lights off? Cool.
Michael: Social commentary for sure. I think this is why Carpenter was such a powerhouse in the genre back in the 80s. He didn’t seem very interested in just telling a simple monster story; it’s clear from films like The Thing and They Live that we wanted to use the genre tropes to address larger societal issues. He understood that often the best monster movies are the ones where the real monster is us.
What is the most underrated sci-fi/horror movie?MC: Alien 3
Davis: I think there’s a lot of them, but there’s two that come to mind immediately: Alien: Covenant and Event Horizon. Couldn’t believe Covenant didn’t do better than it did.
David: The Fountain. I’m a big Darron Aronofsky fan and this work is one of his best. It’s clear the budget was low in some places, but the movie is deeply moving. It also has one heck of a graphic novel companion to go with it that was created because Aronofsky didn’t think the movie would be made.
Forrest: I’m not sure about of all time but Annihilation is the best movie of 2018 and this is my hill to die on. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me — which I do consider kind of Sci-fi horror in an abstract way “e-lec-tri-city” — was also severely underappreciated but I think folks have come around to it in the wake of Lynch coming back into the mainstream.
Michael: It’s not so much underrated among critics, but I think audiences largely didn’t know what to make of Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 film Under the Skin starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien that lures men to a mysterious house and then does some strange, crazy alien stuff to them. Under the Skin feels like a Stanley Kubrick film; it’s a bit abstract and open to interpretation. You sort of have to just experience it and accept that the movie isn’t going to explain anything.
Who/what is the greatest villain in sci-fi/horror history?MC: The Thing from The Thing.
Forrest: The Xenomorph, without a doubt. Sometimes sympathetic through the eyes of Ripley but always unsettling, by the end of every movie you have a complex relationship with these iconic killing machines. Are you rooting for them? Are you running in fear? It’s a great middle ground to be in.
Michael: I’m also going with The Thing. It could be anyone. Is it you? Maybe it’s me, and I don’t even know it. It’s just the ultimate agent of paranoia. Who needs an army to take over when you can just turn humanity against themselves?
There are rom-coms, dramedies, and horror comedies just to name a few mixed genres. Is sci-fi/horror the best hybrid genre?MC: Most definitely yes.
Davis: I think so, I think it’s because you’re combining scary with very fantastical sci-fi elements. To me, a combination like this makes the film all the more interesting.
David: I don’t know if I’d agree since I think the best films aren’t any one single genre. That said, I think sci-fi/horror can be far scarier than straight horror as it can tap into deeply unsettling things about people or society more than a straight horror.
Forrest: I feel like sci-fi horror has the highest chance of success but also the highest chance of failure. When it’s done right, you’ll never forget it. When it’s done wrong, you’ll also never forget it but maybe for all the wrong reasons. That’s a tough tightrope to walk but it definitely makes the genre interesting to follow.
Michael: I’m with David and Forrest. I’m a sucker for a well-done genre-shift, but the key word there is “well-done.” It can be executed well like Edgar Wright’s The World’s End, but it can also be a total disaster in the wrong hands. If I had to pick my favorite genres to mash up, it’d be science fiction and film noir. Films like Blade Runner demonstrate how well those two genres work with each other.