Oct 08 2013
Space Waltz by Tomas Kral, Czech Republic.
There’s plenty of horror flicks to choose from when coordinating a Halloween party or simply a spooky night in with a mega-tub of buttery bad-for-you popcorn. One of my personal favorites, however, is the horror flick set in deep space; there’s an added fear factor of being totally deserted and inaccessible. The common theme of “space dementia” naturally lends itself to the thriller/horror genres, adding that extra level of psychological terror. I’m not talking about events that simply take place on another planet; I mean legit suspended in the vacuum of nothingness in a ship, or sometimes just a pressurized suit – sometimes less than even that.
Having been docked during previous film competitions for a lack of clear distinction between horror and thriller, I’ve decided to define “space horror” films as those containing a fair amount of blood and gore. Since Halloween is right around the corner (and I haven’t even started getting my costumer together), lets dive into seven space screamers where the blood floats in zero-G like the salmon of Capistrano (you know, if salmon were congealed, weightless blobs).
Bite my lip and close my eyes, take me away Event Horiz…on.
Combine Dr. Alan Grant, Morpheus, Lucius Malfoy, and Marilyn Lovell in a deep space salvage mission that opens a portal to hell, and you have Event Horizon. I can’t believe it’s taken me over 15 years to see this film, but, dated visual effects aside, I’m glad I finally did. Despite some cheesy animated floating objects, there were definitely a few jaw-dropping moments of disgust; always satisfying seeing someone take a dive down a deep shaft and bounce off jutting metal points like the Titanic propeller guy. While it could be classified a psychological thriller, I still felt there was real horror here (how often does a guy gouge out his own eyes – really). I had fun putting those two years of high school Latin to work in deciphering the doomed crew’s final message. And what the inferis, Jason Isaacs – why did I just now realize how freaking gorgeous you were? Those eyes… I mean, damn. I need a moment.
Yeah, it’s animated – but tell me that’s NOT terrifying.
Nope, nope, nope. Pretty much what I say whenever the husband decides to play a round of Dead Space and asks if I want to watch. Usually complete with this hand gesture:
I love The Oatmeal.
I’m not a huge anime or cartoon fan – I guess I just can’t get past the juvenile aspect of it, and that’s my own hangup/loss, but this flick takes the cake for one of the most disturbing video game prequels ever. One of the benefits of animation is the ability to create and showcase otherworldly creatures without a massive special effects budget, or strain on actors and those poor makeup artists. There’s something rewarding about watching a blue-haired punk chick slice a massive necromorph in twain with a light-saber/chainsaw – and listening to the husband say “oh, GOD, I hate those guys” every time a new baddie appears on the Ishimura.
“Diarrhea is like a storm raging inside of you…”
What can I even say? This film (and even its ancestors) was iconic. Alien pushed boundaries and broke convention in a way that influenced hundreds of copycats and an entire genre of sci-fi/horror/thrillers. It accomplished this in a classically subtle and understated manner that permeates all truly great horror films – it’s not always the reveal of the creature (though impressive in this case) but the suspense of where it may be lurking. Despite the chestburster being a comical Halloween costume, I will never forget seeing this scene for the first time when I was about 8 years old (gotta love the 80s when parents weren’t all hung up on MPAA-ratings yet) – the gore and pain I imagine this poor crew member felt wasn’t what stuck with me; rather, it was the look on his companions’ faces, the look of sheer panic and horror that stuck with me all these years. Side note: I still close my eyes on the Great Movie Ride at Disney World solely because of the Alien part. Thanks for being a part of my nightmares, Ridley Scott.
Hellraiser IV: Bloodline
Me and my shaaaaadow.
Confession time: The Hellraiser series creeps me the hell out. There’s just something very unnerving about them. Although flashbacks take us back several centuries, the primary action takes place aboard a space station, Minos. Hell on a space shuttle, who’d have thought of that premise… (whistles the Event Horizon theme). So not only are you utterly abandoned to the depths of the final frontier, there are now Cenobites trying to chomp their way into your universe because of that damn puzzle box. Seriously, people, just stahp messing around with toys from hell, mkay? The disturbing gore is where this film’s attributes end, however – its hard to tell if the acting is horrible because of the stunted dialogue, or if the mediocre script was botched by terrible actors. Incidentally, this is the only film on this list to have been directed by Alan Smithee, a moniker used when a director is so disgusted with the final product that they cannot bear to have their name attached to it. Wow.
Voldemort in Space.
Statute of limitations has passed on spoilers for this one, so here it goes: yes, I know this film technically doesn’t take place in space, but it still counts since for most of the time, we’re led to believe the protagonists are suspended in a galaxy far, far away. With cannibals, who are kinda like crazy space Morlocks. And a captain who may suffer from schizophrenia. I actually liked this film, in spite of mixed reviews and a wholly unexpected/disappointing ending.
Aw… he’s almost cuddly. Let’s take him with us.
I’m not here to debate the quality of these flicks, so this one also deserves a spot on this list. But a machete-wielding, undead serial killer in outer space – tell me that’s not terrifying. The scariest parts of this film may have been the acting and overwhelming plot holes (why is Jason in space, again? What brain surgeon decided to bring a frozen serial killer onboard a spaceship field trip with a bunch of horny teens?), but as a horror flick, Jason does the job. Camp Crystal Lake’s favorite hockey fan is declared dead and to no one’s surprise wakes with the same thirst for blood and revenge on bros and boobs. Oh, and becomes Uber-Jason, powerful cyborg/serial killer. In space. Hey, at least it’s not Leprechaun 4.
Okay, fine, twist my arm.
Director Danny Boyle loves recycling actors: Cillian Murphy of 28 Days Later and Rose Byrne of 28 Weeks Later in this film in particular. In an all-too-familiar plot summary, a crew is sent to salvage a lost spacecraft and save the human race from extinction, this time with the added twist of dropping a bomb into the sun to “restart” it and save mankind from solar winter. The aptly named Icarus II spaceship encounters its predecessor, complete with decimated crew and minimal life support functions, and the slayings begin. Scarecrow and Captain America confront Captain Sinestro and everyone on board either freezes or burns, the end. In all honesty, it’s a pretty decent and understated space flick – similar in atmosphere to another I fancied, Europa Report.
BT-Dubs, I’m gonna throw out an honorable mention to one of my favorites – Serenity. Emotional trauma aside (THANKS WHEDONBAMA), the playback screams that come out of the Reavers’ victims are haunting. Part of it takes place on various planets, but I found myself holding my breath along with Mal’s crew while they flew between Reaver ships in the dead silence of space. And no one can deny River is a bona fide badass capable of taking on any of the jokers on this list, or in the ‘verse for that matter.
So, what movies did I miss, Unreaders? C’mon, I got some free time between now and October 31st, and plenty of nights to lie awake in terror, wondering what is lurking in the shadowy corners of my room. Hit me with your best films!
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