The science fiction and horror genres have always gone hand in hand, dating back even before Mary Shelley’s seminal work in both genres, Frankenstein. Many of the gothic horrors of the nineteenth century contained a strong element of science or pseudoscience. In the 1950’s, there wasn’t even any distinction between the two genres. The cultural fears were science-based and so, for that time, sci-fi and horror were simply one and the same thing, resulting in the atomic age monster movies.
Everyone has the titles that pop into their heads when they think of blending sci-fi and horror together. Alien, The Thing, maybe even Event Horizon; there are always titles that will immediately stick in people’s minds. But there are so many more out there. That’s the beauty of horror: there’s always more to discover, and that concept alone seems almost inherently sci-fi.
Body Snatchers (1993)
While the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers is the remake everyone talks about—and is certainly the better movie—this 1993 update of Body Snatchers is totally underrated. Much of this comes from the innovative screenplay by Stuart Gordon, Dennis Paoli and Nicholas St. Johnson, along with a cast that includes Meg Tilly, R. Lee Ermey and Forest Whitaker. While it’s a lower budget version of the classic tale, it’s suspenseful and boasts some impressive effects at the same time. While the film gained some impressive reviews upon release—including praise from Roger Ebert—it went pretty unnoticed by the general public and has still not completely found its audience.
The Hidden is an underrated movie from an underrated director. Jack Sholder, who previously helmed Alone in the Dark and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, took the reigns on this neat sci-fi/possession movie with a strong action element as well. There are certain moments in The Hidden that stand out as the best of anything in Sholder’s career as a director. Kyle MacLachlan gives an expectedly good performance and the whole production is just fun, stylistic and appreciatively weird.
Lifeforce may have its detractors but I definitely think it’s a pretty solid movie, worth defending and one of the best of Tobe Hooper’s post-Poltergeist career. Based on the novel The Space Vampires by Colin Wilson, Lifeforce manages to be stylish, sleazy and at times even subtle, moving effortlessly between these three extremes. While Tobe Hooper often has problems with tone, this one does not fall victim to that. This is one of those instances much like Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 in that Hooper knew exactly what kind of film he wanted to make and did not bend in his vision. Also like that sequel, Lifeforce is all the better for it.
For some unknown reason, 1989 was the year of deep-sea horror on the big screen. In addition to Leviathan, this year also saw the release of Deepstar Six, The Evil Below, Lords of the Deep, The Rift and of course The Abyss. With the exception of the latter, Leviathan is the best of the bunch. It’s a standout of the extremely niche subgenre of oceanic horror. It is a creature feature with generally great FX that is also treated as a serious-but-not-too-serious thriller with a cast that includes Peter Weller, Amanda Pays, Ernie Hudson and Daniel Stern. While the whole thing is probably worth it for the monster, it’s a comfort that there are some decent moments aside from that as well.
While it might not be the most unknown horror movie out there, it’s nowhere near the cult classic status of its sibling, Re-Animator. From Beyond makes the list because it should be considered one of the seminal, go-to sci-fi horror movies and it really doesn’t seem to be. Yet this is one of Stuart Gordon’s best, reusing two of the major stars from Re-Animator—which had only been released a year before—and giving them completely different roles. Watching these early works, it was easy to see that Gordon had gotten his start as a theater director because his cast and crew were reused for many years and treated very similarly to a theater company. It’s no surprise that he’s since returned to the stage.
Prince of Darkness
Like From Beyond, Prince of Darkness might be known among the hardcore horror crowd. But this sci-fi/horror epic is far from being widely considered one of John Carpenter’s best. What I love so much about Prince of Darkness is how seamlessly the science fiction elements are woven into the narrative and how this typically religious horror scenario of the Antichrist and the apocalypse is restructured from the ground up to be treated first and foremost as a matter of science. Also like From Beyond, it should be a staple of sci-fi/horror, but I never seem to hear it brought up in that conversation.