Film | by Shane “Don’t Poke The Meteor” Hnetka
I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but it bears repeating ad nauseum: there are way, way, way too many terrible science fiction horror movies.
Sure, the horror genre as a whole is stuffed with turkeys, but for whatever reason, adding space to the mix cranks the bad up to 11.
Every day this month I’ve been writing my annual online column, 31 Days Of Horror. The theme this year is Space: The Spooky Frontier. I’ve learned the universe might be infinite, but science fiction horror movies mostly stick to three gimmicks.
Meteors, Zombies And Vampires, Oh My
But first, a little background. H.G. Wells’ book The War Of The Worlds was published in 1898, launching the “alien invasion” genre. It took movieland a while to catch up to books. Things didn’t get rolling until the 1950s, when films like The Thing From Another World and The Day The Earth Stood Still captured audience imaginations. After that, it didn’t take long for Hollywood to figure out three basic alien formulas.
First: meteors. Meteors bring nothing but bad news. Whether it’s the rocks themselves (The Monolith Monsters), evil alien goo (The Blob, Color Out of Space, Goke, The Body Snatcher from Hell), slugs (Slither, The Hidden, Night of the Creeps) or plants (The Day of the Triffids), when a space rock crashes, it’s time to run for the hills.
Vampires seem a weird fit for science fiction but the creatures — or at least their relatives — have somehow managed to become a horror-sci-fi fixture. It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Goke, The Body Snatcher from Hell, Not of this Earth, Queen of Blood, Planet of the Vampires, Horror of the Blood Monsters, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Lifeforce, The Thing from Another World, The Green Slime and many more films feature space-vampires. Why do aliens constantly want our blood?
Finally, there are space zombies. Aliens love raising and/or possessing the dead. The Man from Planet X, The Brain Eaters, Plan 9 from Outer Space, Invisible Invaders, The Earth Dies Screaming, as well as Lifeforce, Night of the Creeps and Slither, are just a few examples.
Clichés In Space
Why are there so many zombies and vampire-like aliens in sci-fi horror movies? The easy answer is “lazy screenwriting”. Maybe when filmmakers try to imagine aliens, all they can do is project familiar old fears into the unknown. But when you’re writing a Halloween column on science fiction horror movies, it kind of makes for repetitive plot recaps.
All I know is I kind of want to make a space invasion movie to end all space invasion movies. It’ll have space slugs, vampires and zombies, of course.
No meteors, though. Those things freak me out.
Shane Hnetka is a Saskatchewan film and comic book nerd. Read 31 Days Of Horror column online at planetsmag.com.