In this latest instalment of our ongoing Watch This feature — in which Adam and I give you a rundown on shows or movies you absolutely must see — we take a look at movies starring beings from beyond the boundaries of our little blue-green planet.
That’s right, we’re going back into outer space. But we’re not talking about cute and cuddly E.T.s and Stitches who just want to hug and be friends with us. Hell, we’re not even talking campy outer space denizens who come here with their “Yak-Yak” and their “Prepare to die, Earth-scum” and shoot us with laser guns.
No, today we’re talking about skin crawling, nightmare inducing wrongness.
We’re talking real aliens.
Real scary aliens.
Scott’s comments will be in Martian Invasion Red, Adam’s will be in Green Vulcan Blood.
Now, in my opinion, “Aliens” is the better movie. But there’s two major factors that make “Alien” a much better fit for this list than the sequel.
The first is that this is the first appearance of the Xenomorph in film, so naturally this movie is the go-to film. The second is actually a something of a genre shift. “Aliens” is a very different movie from “Alien,” in everything from the feel to the pace. Yes, they’re both science fiction horror movies – but “Aliens” is also an action movie.
“Alien” is not.
“Alien” is a creepy, atmospheric thriller. Once things start to go bad for the crew of the Nostromo, the tension begins to ramp up exponentially. Couple that with the giant, largely claustrophobic ship and the small crew. Then add in the fact that you never really get a clear look at the Xenomorph during the first film – terrifying.
I think it was best put in “Aliens”, during Ripley’s debrief at Weyland-Yutani headquarters: acid blood; plants a living seed in your chest, which then BURSTS out of you; proceeds to eat all you friends… There are few things more terrifying than that.
Oh, did I mention it has, like, five mouths? Because it does.
The Alien is so bad-ass, the creation of such a twisted mind (in surrealist HR Giger), and so thoroughly, mindlessly brutal, that after violating your fragile human body, it would probably take off with your girlfriend.
Fire in the Sky (1993)
Fire in the Sky was the stuff of nightmares. Literally. Except, presumably, these fiends ACTUALLY kidnap you and do all kinds of fucked up shit to you. And the very worst part of their terrifying violations? When you come back home after a night in space, no one believes you. They all think your nuts, as you try to explain that these are actually the early symptoms of alien gonorrhoea.
More than anything, what makes these fuckers so upsetting is that they’re so… nondescript. You come back from being anally examined by a species that doesn’t understand your anatomy, and when someone asks what you saw, all you can recall is a face that conveys… well, noselessness.
And that’s fucked up.
But thank the gods they can only bite you with one mouth. Not, like, five.
The aliens in “Fire in the Sky” are scary because, basically, they’re so similar to us. It’s that almost human aspect that, as far as I’m concerned, makes them so damned terrifying. It gives you an idea that you might know what they’re going to do next… then they do the opposite, like stick a freakin’ needle in your eye!
These are also supposed to basically be “The Grays”, the standard alien abduction creatures that have invaded the pop culture. I have a friend who would not be able to even watch this movie because of how utterly terrified she is of them. And rightly so.
If you see one of these guys on a dark street and your primitive mammal brain doesn’t scream “RUN”, you deserve to have your anus probed.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
This is a scary ass movie. Fundamentally, the theme here is about the terror of conformity, and I think there may have been some communist message, too. But the actual aliens? The pod people?
That’s the kind of thing that feeds paranoid delusions for the rest of your life.
“Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is actually a decently tense movie, which follows Donald Sutherland as he tries to save himself from the alien menace that is literally replacing humanity.
And really, what’s more horrifying? The terror of struggling against becoming what everyone else is? Or being the only one left who hasn’t changed?
From deep space, the seed is planted. Terror grows. And it screams like a banshee, too.
Now, it’s hard to really describe what’s scariest in this movie, since it stars long-established Hollywood creeps like Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum. But it would be pretty creepy when you realize that all the people you know and love have been copied and replaced — their bodies LITERALLY snatched away from them.
BUT SCARIEST OF ALL: Donald Sutherland’s unfortunate afro!
The Thing (1982)
The Thing — so horrifying, so grotesque… But did you know it’s also the primary tool of creationist dogma? “This!” they exclaim, “is what Charles Darwin was trying to foist upon humanity with his ‘theory.'” They go on to question whether or not this kind of thing is really what we should be teaching our children.
And the answer is yes. Yes we should.
The Thing is not only absolutely terrifying, it’s also fucking awesome to watch it slither and change and ooze its way through body after body. What makes the Thing so powerfully scary is that it’s… positively disgusting! Truly some of John Carpenter’s best work. And if the Thing doesn’t scare you, then Kurt Russell dressed as a flamethrower-wielding hippie surely will.
“The Thing” is a deeply disturbing movie based on the equally disturbing novella by John W. Campbell “Who Goes There?” or “The Thing from Another World”.
This is another alien who steals humans and imitates them. It’s a squishy extra-terrestrial shapeshifter that consumes everything in it’s path, turning it into a part of… well it.
Really, Adam sums it up well above, but if you want to totally blow your mind, I highly recommend reading this short story by Canadian science fiction author Peter Watts. It’s “The Thing”… told from a very different point of view.