Space Horror – what a concept!
Look, you’re up in a vessel with a bunch of people under physical and mental strain, everything outside kills you, everything inside is so delicate that it doesn’t take much to malfunction and then there’s of course the whole thing about eldritch beings in space, aliens, black holes and whatnot. All in all: space is scary.
(if you like this, you also might enjoy people stuck in a submarine or underwater station)
My favorite (horror) movie has all my favorite ingredients: a rag tag crew thrown together in a small space (lol) to do a thing but then they discover something that changes everything and everything goes to hell.
“Alien” is the horror movie to rule them all. It has the best protagonist ever who only makes smart decisions, it has a cat that survives, it has a puppet monster which means 40 years later it still looks amazing and not like designed by a webmaster from 1998, it has an amazing soundtrack, a great overall cast, a really cool world-building and beautiful camera work. And it is SCARY!
As much as I enjoy watching the rest of the “Alien”-Franchise (although I think that those most recent additions are horribly dull and heavy-handed philosophy-wise), the first one is a master piece.
I do recommend “Aliens” though, because it’s like the action version of “Alien” and I like genre jumps in a franchise.
Event Horizon (1997)
This somewhat Clive Bark-ian movie about a space crew that checks out a long-lost space ship that was about to travel through space & time is not for leisure watching. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of psychological horror but since this movie has a pretty neat concept, I allow it because it is and isn’t psychological. I am not quite sure whether it’s the best it could have been. Apparently, it had to be edited down because it was a very long movie and in the 90s, those were not allowed. Even though there were a lot of extra scenes explaining some important plot points that now only manage to confuse everyone watching, these scenes might have been destroyed in the legendary salt mines that many an original movie copy was stored in. According to legend, there is a director’s cut VHS out there.
Anyways, as a gory monument of space horror, Event Horizon is entertaining enough albeit too scattered to be a proper good movie. But it is a lot of fun to watch, like many hodgepodge movies (that 13th ghost-remake is such a mess but I love it).
I really don’t get this movie. It has all the ingredients that I love: there’s a small crew on board of a spaceship trying to find new life, they find it and then hilarity terror ensues. I don’t want to be spoiling too much, but I can spoil this: even though it shouldn’t be, this movie is boring. I occasionally rewatch it, to see whether maybe it will grip me at some point but so far, it’s a one-time watch for the special effects and nothing else.
Ok, so I don’t like psychological horror but this movie is absolutely amazing. However, it’s so bleak occasionally, that I don’t really watch it regularly. The story about an astronaut (Sam Rockwell at his finest) who seems to lose his mind on a never-ending, isolated mission counting the seconds to return back to earth, is beautifully told, feels constantly claustrophobic and is honestly terrifying. At least, it was for me.
A crew wakes up on a seemingly isolated spaceship and has to figure out why they were awoken early and what happened to their previous crew. Unfortunately, they have forgotten everything after the long hypersleep and they feel a little … on edge. As they uncover what happened on the ship, they encounter unspeakable terrors.
Although this movie is so dark that it could be a battle episode on “Game of Thrones”, it’s a very nice action horror movie. The acting is amazing although super intense (if you cast Ben Foster, you only get 100% intense, that’s the deal). The design of the ship is gorgeous and without telling too much: there will be a few “woah”-moments if you’re not the type that always 100% predicts everything. I am not sure whether all those “woah”-moments are good but they are entertaining.
Dead Space (Downfall)
So, if you don’t know the very popular horror action game “Dead Space”, this movie will be a clusterfuck. Even though there is the attempt at explaining the backstory, it’s too little and then gets abandoned early on for a non-stop gore-fest.
As a video game-tie in, it’s a nice enough movie. Look, it’s not good. It’s way too serious, there’s a scene where people talk about having lost the “dig-crew” and you’re supposed to be tense but … well.
However, I do appreciate animated horror movies and there’s so few space horror movies as it is, so I allow it on the list because I remember being kinda entertained during my first watch. I also think that you could turn this into an amazing mini series with the right plot and big enough budget (not animated, I mean for realz).
Warning: if you know the game, you will know what’s up, if not: this is a very brutal, very gory movie.
Warning #2: There is a sequel which is a lot worse than the first movie, so steer clear of that unless you really want to get the 100% trophy for space horror.
The Cloverfield Paradox
As part of the Cloverfield universe (which you might have guessed from the name), this movie is about an international space ship crew supposed to save the earth that deals with some mind-boggling problems in addition to suspicions that some crew members are spies. It took me a few watches to really get into the concept because it’s a whole lotta talking with everyone having kinda convoluted backstories (something that you usually don’t find in sci-fi movies but apparently there IS something like too much backstory). It’s hard to discern, who likes or dislikes who for what reasons combined with what happened or happens on earth combined with the overall mystery that gets introduced early on. Somehwere, deep within this movie, is a really good movie.
Reading is fun: Books about space horror
Ship of fools – Richard Paul Russo
Apparently, it’s next to impossible to find horror sci fi, specifically space horror, that is not badly written and/or super sexist and/or too “quirky”. “Ship of Fools” will be recommended on every space horror literature list and in every forum.
It tells the story of a ship full of hundreds of people and its own hierarchy and history that is on a journey through space for hundreds of years. On their search for (human) life or even a planet to colonize, they find a mystery wrapped up in a riddle, bound by terror.
Although not quite free from a few cliches, the book is well paced, the writing style is ok and the story is interesting enough. Personally, I dislike the protagonist very much (which is not intended, I think) but it’s not enough to stop reading. Since it seems absolutely impossible to find a good space horror book that is not a space opera, star wars-tie in, or the retelling of a video game or movie, “Ship of Fools” is the closest you can get to an original and sometimes creepy story on board a space ship.
The Last Astronaut – David Wellington
Now, this is a great read with somewhat stereotypical characters but with a concept that honestly still makes me stop and go ‘hm’ now and then. “The Astronaut” is about a space crew somewhat in the future that gets send out to explore a mysterious comet that might actually be a space ship (alluding to that turd-like meteor that actually exists and doesn’t move like it should). Of course, things don’t go as planned with our rag tag crew of experts.
I hate most of the characters, to be honest but damn, that story is really well thought out and written and it’s such an amazing idea which also feels very well executed. It’s a short neat read which I heavily recommend if you like space horror.
Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1) – Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck
OMG, what is it with space horror and horrible characters that I hate? Leviathan has two protagonists who are the worst, one one-upping the other with douchiness. I initially test-read this for a Christmas present but even if I loathed the characters, that story is super interesting, the world building is solid and even the action scenes – something that bores me out of my mind, usually – are incredibly well written. It’s like the best restaurant you’ve ever been to but the staff is obnoxious. But the food is really good.