Top 10 Outer-Space Horrors!
So, y'all fin to feel the weight of GRAVITY this weekend? Hell, I know I am...and not just because it's the latest film from Mexican maestro Alfonso Caron...but because this shite looks like the kind of grandiose, prestigious genre projects we used to get on the regular a few decades ago. Right? It looks like a serious film, not just a cheap, exploitative thriller for ADD-riddled tweens. The flick also clearly kicks-off award season, with two talented A-list movie stars attached. I'm definitely confident if not hopeful that Cuaron can and will elevate the subgenre with this quiet, groundbreaking spectacle. That said, do you think GRAVITY will rise among the pantheon of all-time space-horror classics? Wait, check out our Top 10 Outer-Space Horror joints above before you make the call!
I almost decided to kick things off with PANDORUM, just for its sheer off-the-wall insanity, but because I see more than its fair share of EVENT HORIZON influences, why not fete the latter instead?! Come on now, Sam Neill as Weir...the black-eyed psychopath who commandeers a spaceship hurling toward pure evil...yeah, not to be f*cked with! I remember clocking this sucker with my pops, uncle and cousin in the theater at 14 years old, and being fully entertained by how progressively off-the-rails Weir becomes. Shite's utter lunacy!
Silly, campy, cartoonish - I don't give a damn, there's no way in hell I'm omitting my man Voorhees and his reign of intergalactic slaughter! Wouldn't dream of it. Besides, JASON X not only features one of the all time best Voorhees' kills, whereby Jason plunges a gorgeous blond's face into a sink of liquid nitrogen, only to pull out and smash it to smithereens - the flick also has a great call back to the sleeping bag death from F13-7: THE NEW BLOOD. Voorhees also tallies his highest body count when terrorizing the cosmos, racking up a cool 28 bodies before the credits roll. I'll always remember seeing this on my birthday, opening day, in a completely empty theater, with my two best friends.
Despite RIDDICK besmirching the overall mythos of the title character a tad...we must not forget out how fresh, fun and full of energy the original PITCH BLACK was...and still is today. David Twhoy and the Wheat brothers all but created a antiheroic comic-book character, without the comic, and endured the hulking badass through a bona fide 3-leg franchise. The nocturnal nature of the story plays perfect to the horror sensibility the film ultimately employs, and with Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser and Keith David supporting Vinny D - PITCH BLACK is a lights out interplanetary thriller.
You ever see a giant maggot rape a woman to her gory death? No? Well then, you've not laid eyes on the ingloriously slimy D-grade space horror flick GALAXY OF TERROR. But please believe, I urge you do so ASAP...if for no other reason than to see a pre-Freddy Krueger Robert Englund, not to mention the presence of Sid Haig and Ray Walston. Actually, much like the movie SPHERE, where one's innate fears manifest into a horrific reality - in GALAXY OF TERROR, the crew of a deployed rescue ship begin facing the very horrors projected by their own imagination. Trippy shite!
One can make a strong argument that LIFEFORCE is Tobe Hooper's last good movie. Not a great movie, but his last good one. Sure the FX are laughably outmoded by today's standards, but the story about a breed of space vampires that invade London...and the execution of said story...make LIFEFORCE one of the most memorable outer-space terrors. Oh, that and Mathilda May's swollen rack! Seriously though, Dan O'Bannon (ALIEN, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD) adapted the script, even though changes were made he didn't fully agree with. Trivially, Billy Idol, Michael Caine and Bill Nighy were all considered for various roles in the flick.
Duncan Jones' avant-garde sci-fi thriller MOON, like a couple of the better entries on this here list, happens to be of the man vs. man type of conflict. Or should I say, man versus himself?! Dealing with crippling isolation and loneliness while being stationed alone on the Moon for three years, the grip of sanity slowly starts to slip away from astronaut Sam Bell (played beautifully by Sam Rockwell). His only line of communication? With GERTY, the Kevin Spacey voiced AI that oversees the entire helium-mining operation. This is a focused, confident, jarringly well made $5 million first feature!
Nope, not the commercial Soderbergh remake starring GRAVITY'S own George Clooney, I'm talking about the absolute chore of a film to get through...Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 Russian film SOLYARIS. Have you ever seen that shite? It's tough task, right? But that's precisely the point, as Tarkovsky's main goal was to play with the audience's perspective of time and space. It's nearly a 3 hour film, right? But it actually feels like a 3 day film, and that's absolutely no accident. Of course, one can sense the influence 2001 had on the film...particularly the narrative about a discovery crew slowly going insane from the isolation of outer-space.
Perhaps the smartest thing James Cameron did with ALIENS was completely shifting the tone and energy level of the original. Ridley Scott's film was quiet, measured, and rife with visual metaphors. ALIENS on the other hand is an in your face, MTV paced, first person shooter for most of the time. The first was a slow-mounting haunted house flick, the second a barrage of high-caliber action-horror. I suppose PROMETHEUS did a decent job of tethering those two poles together, sadly its end result renders the whole film only marginally better than ALIEN 3 and ALIEN RESURRECTION.
Sorry, but I can't get down with those who favor the shoot-em-up videogame energy of ALIENS over what is clearly a superior film in its predecessor. And I'm still amazed how little the Freudian sexual-subtext of ALIEN gets discussed - as the phallic alien design, vaginal doors, fallopian pods and constant references to Mother, penetration and impregnation - aren't too terribly coded. That's what the film is about...a mother subjugating her family unit upon the arrival of a penis-shaped monster. Of course, the legendary H.R. Giger production design, the Dan O'Bannon script and the diverse band of A-list actors elevate the material above and beyond!
"I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it." The Earth shattering techno-marvel that is Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY has a surreal narrative that's been puzzling humans for 45 years. Hell, NASA even provided Kubrick with special lenses for the flick (did he repay the agency by shooting faux Apollo 11 footage?). Yet aside from the films mysterious meanings, there's nothing unclear about the creepiness of HAL-9000, the baleful bot that f*cks up the entire space mission. Point blank, this is film-art at its most dense and thought provoking!