Countless movies have attempted to blend the science fiction and horror genres, but not many have done it as well as the original Predator. (Witness, for example, most of its sequels and spinoffs.) With that franchise returning to theaters, let’s call out some other movies that pulled off the trick successfully.
One note: The Alien franchise and John Carpenter’s The Thing are both very obvious picks for this topic. Both have been been featured in enough previous Roundtables that I asked our contributors to shelve them for this one. Consider each of them as a given.
Mixing horror and science fiction is nothing new. In fact, it’s so old school that my choice of favorite movie that blends both is 87-years-old. James Whale’s Frankenstein is the original source of the melding of the two genres. Back in a time where science could feel like witchcraft, and that meant horror, the very idea of a scientist playing god was enough to terrify audiences to their core. And like the best horror films, a sliver of tragedy runs throughout the plight of the monster. Frankenstein still makes me jump, think, and cry. What more can you ask?
M. Enois Duarte
Ken Russell’s cult favorite Altered States is a bizarre tale inspired by real-life sensory deprivation research performed by highly-intelligent and influential psychoanalyst John C. Lilly. Technically, the script is an adaptation of screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky’s one and only novel, which he also wrote under a pseudonym. The plot follows abnormal psychologist Edward Jessup (William Hurt in his film debut) and his search for deeper states of consciousness, which he believes can only be achieved by locking himself inside an isolation tank for an extended period of time. The result is an eerie, psychedelic trip layered with grotesquely mind-bending, kaleidoscopic visuals and bombarded with deliriously spectacular and dazzlingly hallucinogenic sound effects. The film is as much weird, fantastical and outlandishly difficult to comprehend as it is strangely reflective, wildly imaginative and a beautiful piece of sci-fi horror cinema.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
Sci-fi/horror cinema is littered with cyborgs, unfeeling robotic intelligences, and extraterrestrial menaces. That sort of clearly defined antagonist – a being over which to triumph – is nowhere to be found throughout Cube. Instead, its threat is the cube in which these five characters awake.
These people don’t know each other. They have no idea where they are or why they’ve been taken here. All they know is that they’re in a cube-shaped room, with each of its six walls leading to cubes all but indistinguishable from the one they’re in. They have no food or water. Many of these rooms are rigged with a variety of different traps, from acid sprays to a flesh-slicing grate. As they search for an exit, it becomes all too clear that the greatest obstacle perhaps isn’t the seemingly endless onslaught of booby-trapped rooms; it’s one another.
Cube is both simplistic, establishing the core of its premise within just a minute or two, and remarkably complex. The mind-bogglingly massive cube is a puzzle to be solved. These very different characters are puzzle pieces themselves, as they soon come to learn. The cube itself is not as static as it would seem, and much the same can be said about its captives. Cube embraces mathematics in a way that few other films can match (even if I did find myself groaning at a math student pondering if an even number was prime or not). It has the restraint to resist grand revelations or a tidy ending. Plus, it holds a strangely special spot in my heart, bearing the distinction as the first DVD I ever bought.
During his prime, David Cronenberg had a knack for elevating the horror genre to artistic and even philosophical heights. After some success with The Dead Zone, the director was brought on board by Mel Brooks, of all people, to helm The Fly, a remake of a 1958 B-movie starring Vincent Price. The original was fun but pretty corny. For his version, Cronenberg shifted to a much more serious tone, in line with the body-horror pictures he’d made in Canada (The Brood, Scanners, Videodrome). The resulting movie is famous for its very grotesque and repugnant gore effects. More than that, it has a compelling script and a terrific performance from Jeff Goldblum playing a scientist slowly evolving into a mutant insect creature after his teleportation experiment goes horribly wrong.
What might have been a sell-out project to get his foot in a major studio’s door turned out to be one of Cronenberg’s best films and a horror classic.
We’ve barely scratched the surface here. Tell us what we missed in the Comments.